Hockey East was formed in 1983, when the athletic leadership of the founding schools, responding to the possibility of the Ivy League hockey teams breaking away from the ECAC, decided to form their own conference. Those charter members, Boston College, Boston University, University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University and Providence College, officially founded the Hockey East Association on July 11, to begin play in the fall of 1984. University of Lowell and University of Maine joined later that year, bringing the number of members to seven at the start of play.
With Hockey powerhouses such as Boston College, Boston University and Providence in the ranks, Hockey East gained instant credibility. A December 1983 agreement with the WCHA created an interlocking schedule between the conferences that continued through the 1988-89 season. On the ice, Providence College advanced to the NCAA Championship game in the association's first season. Consequently, Hockey East did not endure the same growing pains the CCHA endured.
Although Hockey East was immediately established, there were still some kinks to be worked out. Movement of the finals around New England (Providence, Chestnut Hill and Boston) was not solved until Hockey East and the ECAC cooperated on "Hockeyfest," a joint championship weekend played at the Boston Garden, to start in 1990. However, the Hockey East teams were no-shows that first year, due to a measles epidemic on the Maine campus. Hockeyfest went off as planned for 1991 and 1992 and starting in 1993 Hockey East became the sole conference finals in Boston, with the ECAC moving to Lake Placid.
By this time, a NCAA Championship was the only thing lacking, until Maine secured the association's first in 1993. An eligibility scandal rocked Maine the next year, along with a court injunction permitting the Black Bears to play in the Hockey East playoffs after the association's athletic directors voted to bar them. The league reached the ultimate height the next season, when two members, Boston University and Maine, met in the 1995 NCAA Championship game, with Boston University emerging victorious.
Four years later, Maine and New Hampshire comprised another all-Hockey East NCAA final, with Maine winning this time. Boston College ended their long national drought with a championship in 2001, then won three more in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Amid BC's three wins in five years Boston University picked up a national title in 2009. 2005 saw the first change in membership for the league in quite some time, as Vermont moved to Hockey East from the ECAC, putting the league at ten teams. Notre Dame left the dying CCHA and joined the league in 2013, being followed the next year by Connecticut, departing Atlantic Hockey, putting Hockey East at twelve teams in 2014. The Hockey East-Notre Dame matchup did not work as intended and Notre Dame left in 2017 for the Big Ten.
|1984-85||First season of play seven teams: Boston College, Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire, Northeastern & Providence from ECAC Division 1 and Lowell, formerly an independent.|
|1989-90||Merrimack joined, formerly an independent.|
|1991-92||Lowell now known as Massachusetts-Lowell.|
|1994-95||Massachusetts joined, formerly an independent.|
|2005-06||Vermont joined from the ECAC.|
|2013-14||Following the dissolution of the CCHA, Notre Dame joined.|
|2014-15||Connecticut joined from Atlantic Hockey.|
|2016-17||Last season for Notre Dame, which moved to the Big Ten.|
|2019-20||The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Hockey East tournament to be canceled.|