Joe Battista: Are you Ready for Some Hockey? Some NCAA Varsity Hockey?
Bear with me as I hold back a few tears and grin from ear to ear as a 30-year dream for this hockey guy is about to become a reality.
A lot of patience, perseverance, and passion have finally paid off for those of us who eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. NCAA men’s and women’s varsity hockey will make their debuts over the next two weekends as Penn State enters the world of big time college hockey.
As a former player and coach for the Penn State Icers, I always aspired to see the teams be given this chance. It is both exciting and humbling to see this reality about to come to fruition. While I will not be behind the bench for the Nittany Lions, I will certainly feel like a proud papa when the puck is dropped to open the first NCAA season. Remember “Battista” means “The Baptiste” in Italian, so I come from a lineage of people who have ‘sacrificed’ for the greater good.
Our benefactors, Terry and Kim Pegula, will be this year’s Penn State Homecoming Grand Marshall’s and be riding just in front of the hockey float that will feature the always popular Zamboni ice resurfacing machine on a flatbed with a “special guest” in the driver’s seat
So are you ready for some NCAA Varsity Hockey?
Saturday at 2 p.m. history will be made in Burlington, Vt. as the brand new Penn State women’s varsity hockey team will make its debut in NCAA competition against the Catamounts of the University of Vermont. Head coach Josh Brandwene and the Penn State Nittany Lions will travel north for a two game set that can be followed on America One Sports at the links below:
The women will return to PSU for their home opener against Syracuse on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.
For the women’s hockey team season schedule, go here.
This season the men’s team will play as an independent in preparation for joining the new Big Ten hockey conference for the following year. The season gets started at the Greenberg Ice Rink on campus on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. against American International College out of Springfield, Ma. The team will play AIC again the follow day but this time at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Scranton, Pa., home of the Baby Penguins.
Tickets for the men’s games are virtually sold out for the entire season. There will be a limited number of tickets available for single games (call 1-800-NITTANY) and 300 standing room only tickets available for each game.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky recently named his team captain, Tom Olczyk, who is the son of former NHL All-Star Ed Olczyk. The game will also feature the debut of the Nittany Lions first ever NHL draft pick when Max Gardiner of Deephaven, Minn. hits the ice. Professional hockey, unlike football or basketball, allows 18 year olds to be drafted so it is not unusual for players to be selected but elect to play college hockey for several years before turning pro. Max was a third round pick of the St. Louis Blues.
For the men’s hockey team season schedule, go here.
Pegula Ice Arena update
If you are driving along University Drive across from the Bryce Jordan Center you will see one huge yellow crane that just hoisted the first set of trusses in place that will span what will be the main sheet of ice at the Pegula Ice Arena. The building is coming along great and on time. We expect it to be under roof by the end of football season.
We are so excited about the opportunities that the building brings for synergistic programming with the college. With two sheets of ice, 14 locker rooms, classrooms, aerobic space, 5,200 square foot strength facility, and we have a 2,800 square foot cyber-cafe to boot.
While the real NHL is in a lockout, the local "NHL" (the Nittany Hockey League) is in full swing. That's the league for us old timers with 12 teams and players 18-70 years old that play Saturday mornings and Sunday nights.
If you are interested in joining the league or if you or your kids/grandkids have a desire to learn how to skate, please call the Penn State Ice Rink at 814-865-4102 or visit their web site.
Great things are happening in the hockey world at Penn State. Hope you will join us for a men’s or women’s game and see what all the excitement is about in person.