The Collegian
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ice hockey team shows passion on and off the ice

While many students are drinking and partying on the weekends, the University of Richmond club ice hockey team can be found at Richmond Ice Zone starting their games at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

But for the players, there is nowhere else they would rather be than on the ice. A late game simply means they will start their post-victory party later, chanting: "U-R hockey ... dun, dun, da, da, dun."

"With a hockey game, it doesn't matter what time it is," senior captain Dan Hebert said. "There is no reason to be there if you are not going to completely be there."

Hebert said it was the smell of the locker room and senior Jeff Fritsch said it was the girls that had driven their commitment to club hockey, but all joking aside, both said the competition, friendship and love for the game were why they played.

With two practices a week at 9:30 p.m. and two games with up to six hours of travel time on weekends, the ice hockey team epitomizes Gordon Bombay's description of a team in the film "The Mighty Ducks."

He said: "A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn."

Coach Kevin Silver said it hurt him when he heard the term "club" hockey because a club was associated with a group of people that loosely got together to do something fun.

"We are an extremely organized group of people fighting to make it to regionals every year and win a league championship," he said.

Sophomore Matt Burns said: "A hockey player is a hockey player for his whole life. It's a weird mindset that you have to play the sport to understand."

Silver said: "It is more of a commitment than any other sport in terms of travel because you always have to take advantage of ice time when it is available. A baseball player can go out to the yard to throw a ball but a hockey player must travel hours on end in order to play."

Ice hockey can be seen as its own subculture, with more than 90 percent of alumni coming back to play in their annual Family Weekend alumni game, Hebert said.

Silver said he had learned more from hockey than he had ever learned in a classroom.

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"I stress to my guys that you are representing more than just yourself," he said. "You represent a team and a university. I emphasize that a strong work ethic and motivation will carry you through life."

Off the ice, the team has recently won the philanthropy event Kappa Kickball and continues to participate in other campus events such as Delta Dodgeball.

In the beginning of the year, the players also solicited businesses such as Exxon and Southwest Grill for a raffle. They raised around $650, which they plan to use toward equipment, meals and ice time.

Silver said hockey was often associated with fighting and blood, but it was one of the most beautiful and fastest sports in the world.

"It is the only sport in which there is no out of bounds, so you are mentally and physically locked in to the walls," he said. "Students need to see the game live in order to appreciate the sport. This includes experiencing the colors, the lights and speeds."

Going to a Richmond hockey game would offer a new spice to a monotonous Richmond weekend, Hebert said.

Senior Kevin Kuhar said: "You can do anything you want in the rink -- bang on glass and yell at the goalie. We even throw out T-shirts between periods."

A lot of people think hockey is limited to the Northeast, but it is becoming increasingly popular in the South, Fritsch said.

Silver said the respect and appreciation for hockey in the South had drastically changed, as two men from Texas were drafted to the NHL last year.

"I used to lie about being from Virginia because coaches wouldn't invite me to try out," he said. "It is amazing to see how hockey has become more mainstream in the South."

Silver said the team had taken on a different persona and intensity level than last year.

Kuhar said, "With a potent offense and solid defense depth, our goal is to make it to regionals and make the run to nationals"

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