For nearly one hundred years American sports fans have seen four sports rise to the top as the most prominent. Like soccer in England or cricket in India, Americans have shown their pride and passion for football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey.
It wasn’t until recently that the sport with the most affluent following began suffering serious attendance drops and financial struggles at the professional level. For those devoted fans of ice hockey, though, the answer was simple: hook the fans at an early age and keep them playing. As ice hockey begins its slow climb back to its seat in the spotlight, young fans are popping up everywhere, and some hockey fanatics at Bloomsburg University decided to take it to the next level.
Starting this semester, students at Bloomsburg University had the opportunity to play Ice hockey for the school’s brand new club team. Bloomsburg was quick to recognize another chance for student activities, but it was the students that brought ice hockey to the forefront and turned the dream of a competitive ice hockey team at Bloomsburg into a reality.
Tom Karpinski is one of those players who strived to make ice hockey an official club sport at the university, and he was here when the closest he could get to a hockey game was through the television. “I have been a hockey fan since I was a little kid, and not being able to play at school left me feeling like something was missing,” Karpinski said. “When I heard there would be an opportunity to play competitive hockey again I decided to help out any way I could.”
A “club” sport is a sport that represents its school in leagues against other club teams, but it does not have any affiliation with the NCAA sports at colleges across America. The idea of club sports is to allow students a chance to compete without having to try out or worry about skill level, it is just for fun.
Getting a sport accredited as an official club sport is not an overnight process, however. “It was hard getting a consistent turnout” said Karpinski. “It costs a decent amount of money to play hockey, but in order to show the school that Ice hockey could have a following at Bloomsburg for years we needed support. A lot of people went to the meetings, but dedication to practice and games was tough to find in the beginning.” It was up to the students to garner some support and players that would devote their time to the sport. “We put up flyers around campus and in town” Karpinski said. “We have a few team members that are working on a website that will be able to give our fans up to date statistics and schedules, and we have t-shirts for sale through the team. We wanted this to look at professional as possible to get us recognized.”
The students could have joined a local Men’s League or played casual pickup games at one the Ice rinks in the area, but there are multiple benefits from being an official club sport. In addition to being able to play under the Bloomsburg University banner and the chance to play against other student athletes from around the state, the school provides financial support to its club teams to help with travel and scheduling burdens. The team will get money from the school ice time, bus services and uniforms” said Karpinski. “It makes it easier for people who may be interested but can’t afford to play. College kids aren’t made of money, so the financial support is something we really appreciate.”
Since the season has begun this year the team has took off and performed better than even they could have hoped for, but winning is not the team’s only goal. What Karpinski and the rest of the Huskies players are looking for is respect. “We are such a young squad, but hopefully in a few years we will make some noise in the league and be taken seriously.” He said. “I would also love to see support from members of our class. We have already seen a few students wearing the team t-shirts we have sold, and any support we get is great for the school and for the sport.”
The team’s current record stands at 2-2-0, and all signs point to bigger and better things for the squad. As ice hockey continues to grow in popularity and younger fans keep playing, the club ice hockey team at Bloomsburg is here to stay. For Karpinski, this is all any student and fan of the game could wish for. He said, “To be competitive and play the sport I love while representing my university is all I could ask for and more.”