The SUU Hockey Club played their inaugural game on Monday, and while the Thunderbirds lost to Cedar Bowl 2-4, getting on the ice and playing for the first time was a victory in itself for the team. Although the club was officially founded in the spring of 2015, it has not competed until this year.
Jon Baker, a senior human nutrition major from Sandy and SUUSA VP of clubs, is the president of the hockey club. He has been playing hockey since high school.
After playing on his school’s junior varsity and varsity teams for four years, Baker wanted to continue in the sport when he came to SUU but couldn’t find what he was searching for. He eventually took over the club president position from his fraternity brother, David Weldon, last spring, but still struggled to grow interest in the club from students.
“I tried to get members but nothing really clicked,” Baker said. “Then this year I made us a banner for Paint the Town Red and got probably 15 people to sign up from there, and then from word of mouth and doing some tabling, we got the rest of our people.”
Baker also accredited a lot of the club’s recent success to Ryan Leonard, a junior political science major from Las Vegas and the vice president of the club.
“Ryan has been a huge help,” Baker said. “I couldn’t have done all this by myself.”
Leonard also started playing hockey in high school, and said he would frequently go to Wranglers games when they were still in town.
“Jon and I, we met last year, and we had this idea of hey we should actually make a team and get jerseys and look official and try and get up and start a program here,” Leonard said.
Through some funding from SUUSA and a deal with a gear company, Bring Hockey Back, the team was able to get matching jerseys and socks, giving them a more cohesive and professional look while on the ice.
The team was also able to work out a deal with the Glacier Ice Rink so they could practice for three hours every Tuesday morning for free. “I think two hours of ice time costs $150 to rent, (and) this is weekly, so he’s helping us out tremendously with that,” Baker said.
Leonard said more than anything they want to build a team that lasts and grows.
“We want to start something here (and when) we come back in ten years there’ll be a team playing other schools in the state of Utah and outside the state of Utah, and we want to be able to say we started that,” Leonard said. “The dream is to one day have a team that competes, and is competitive all the way up and down the line-up.”
Not every player on the team needs to have the amount of experience that Baker and Leonard have to play though. For Lance Ririe, a sophomore marketing major from Bountiful, Tuesday night was only his second time ever playing in a hockey game.
“That’s the best part about this team, is it doesn’t matter what your skill level is. Everybody gets a chance to play,” Ririe said.
While in the Army, Ririe got into hockey because of a friend, and said he was stoked when he came to SUU and heard there was a hockey team and an ice rink in town.
“When I found out that there was a club here I signed up as soon as I could,” Ririe said. “I didn’t know if it was just a bunch of people who liked hockey, or if we played hockey, I didn’t even know I just wanted to be a part of the hockey club here.”
Ririe said he also hopes the team is able to play on a more professional level in the future, and possibly be a part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association one day.
“That’s what I’m hoping for because right now we’re the only division one school in the state that doesn’t have a legitimate hockey team,” Ririe said.
Leonard said the best part about playing hockey and being a part of the team is the camaraderie between the teammates, and the heart and dedication of the team.
“We may not be the most skilled or whatever but we definitely have the best team out here and these guys have been teammates since day one,” Leonard said. “This locker room is full of energy before every game and it’s a good feeling.”
There is an advanced league and a beginners league for hockey at The Glacier, and SUU hockey has a team in both which allows them to compete twice a week. Practices are every Tuesday from 6:30 – 9:30 a.m. For more information on the club contact Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (801) 814-9638.
To stay up to date on all SUU hockey news this season, follow them on Instagram and support the team by purchasing a SUU hockey sweater here. Their next game will be against Hinton Burdick at 9 p.m. on Dec. 11 at The Glacier Ice Rink.
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