For the past few years, I've been gathering and recording old college hockey polls to establish a repository of top ten national rankings from 1970 to the present. I have found some newspaper stories mentioning national and regional (split between east and west) polls before 1970, but they are very sparse and not well documented or cited.
1970-Present (WKOW, WMPL, USCHO) | All Other Polls
1972-1973 | 1973-1974 | 1974-1975 | 1975-1976 | 1976-1977 | 1977-1978 | 1978-1979 | 1979-1980 | 1980-1981 | 1981-1982 | 1982-1983 | 1983-1984 | 1984-1985 | 1985-1986 | 1986-1987 | 1987-1988 | 1988-1989 | 1989-1990 | 1990-1991 | 1991-1992 | 1992-1993 | 1993-1994 | 1994-1995 | 1995-1996
USCHO/Around The Rinks Poll:
For continuity, I've kept the polls at just the top ten. Also, I chose the two longest running polls, WMPL and USCHO. I've also eliminated the poll USCHO releases after the national championship because most of the older polls stopped publishing once the NCAA tournament started (and sometimes before the conference championship weekends). And, let's face it, a poll after a champion is decided is superfluous.
There are still 11 weekly polls that are incomplete. There are also maybe 18 weekly polls still missing. I'm not sure if the other 14 weeks are missing or just don't exist. I'd appreciate it if anyone could help fill in the gaps.
Some poll history...
For 29 seasons from 1972-2001, Bob Olson ran a weekly poll voted on by coaches for college hockey out of a small radio station in the remote outpost of Houghton, Michigan. His story and the story of the WMPL poll is familiar to most of us who remember college hockey long before the internet (like myself). The less familiar story is that of Gary Bender (a future play-by-play man for the NFL on CBS) who started the first weekly national rankings for college hockey.
Gary Bender was working Badger hockey games for WKOW radio in Madison when he conceived of and started the first weekly national poll. First published in December 1970, the poll would have a short life as it died after the 1970-71 season concluded. Bender had left WKOW in 1971 to call Packer games and no one at the station continued the weekly rankings. College hockey was left without a national poll for one season.
That's where Olson came in. He reignited the national poll concept in October 1972 and college hockey has had a weekly national ranking ever since. In fact, at times, college hockey had too many rankings. In addition to WKOW and WMPL, there have been 15 or more different national polls. By the 1994-95 season there were at least four different rankings (WMPL, WMEB, College Hockey USA, and Troy Record). The wild, wild west of rankings drove the Colorado Springs newspaper's sports editor to just add all four rankings together, divide by four, and publish that result as the official college hockey ranking.
Things have settled down since with USCHO.
Sparse findings with limited citations
1961: "UPI Poll" (possibly a east/west poll)
1965-66: "UPI Poll" (possibly a east/west poll)
1966-67: "UPI Poll" (possibly a east/west poll)
1966-67: Boston Hockey Coaches and Writers Association Poll (possibly a east only poll)
1967-68: A national college hockey poll from "a publication out of St. Paul, Minnesota"
1968-69: A college hockey coaches poll from "a midwestern publication"
NATIONAL POLLS 1970-PRESENT
1970-1971: WKOW - Madison, Wis.
1972-2001: WMPL - Hancock, Mich.
1974(?)-1977(?): KBIL - St. Louis, Mo.
1981(?)-1985(?): WDOM - Providence, R.I.
1985(?)-1998(?): WMEB - Orono, Maine
1989(?)-1994: Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union
1994-?: Troy (N.Y.) Record
1996-1997: USCHO.com/Around the Rinks
?-Present: USA Today
OTHER DEFUNCT NATIONAL POLLS 1970s-1990s
A media poll by a collection of student newspapers (early to mid 1990s)
American Hockey Coaches Association (mid 1990s)
Boston Globe (late 1970s)
College Hockey USA (early to mid 1990s)
ESPN/Hockey News (about 1980-1981)
KBJR - Duluth, Minn. (early 1990s)
The Hockey News (early 1980s)
The Sporting News (early 1980s)
NCAA Poll* (1980?-1992)
*voted on by members of the NCAA selection committee, the poll ran weekly in the few weeks leading up to the NCAA tournament and later in its existence, the poll ran weekly starting in January