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Joe Battista: Thank you Greenberg Ice Pavilion! Next stop: Pegula Ice Arena!

by on February 27, 2013 10:40 PM

On the weekend of February 15-16, most Penn Staters and Centre Countians were rightfully focused on THON. Once again Penn State students showed who they really are by setting another new record -- raising over $12 million to benefit the Four Diamonds fund "For The Kids".

While THON was wildly successful and the BJC was buzzing with crowds of over 10.000, a bittersweet event was taking place across the street at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

After 32 years of hosting college hockey games the final Penn State hockey games were being played at Greenberg.

I have spent the better part of the last 32 years lacing up my skates in the Ice Pavilion. The many great memories all came flooding back on that final weekend of games (4-1 and 3-0 wins over Oklahoma) which also included senior night for the current team and the final alumni games played in the old workhorse facility.

We re-enacted the ceremonial puck drop from the opening game of January 16, 1981. State College native Jamie Hettema flew in from California to participate and our former teammate Matt Glass, who scored the first goal in Greenberg, also joined in. The "Grandfather" of PSU hockey, John Dufford, who played varsity hockey from 1939-1942 dropped the ceremonial puck. The Nittany Lion and I were on the ice, taking it all in.

We had such a great alumni turnout that we played two alumni games. Relegated to the "40 and over" game, I actually scored the final goal of my final alumni game in Greenberg with :18 remaining! Those who know me best got a belly laugh from that. It was poetic justice that as a "defenseman", and I use that term loosely, I once again found myself involved in the "offense"!

My junior and senior years as a Penn State Icer were spent in Greenberg playing in front of sell out crowds in the 1,050 seat venue. I even became good friends with the future Mrs. Heidi Battista during those years as she volunteered selling programs and ads for the hockey club and was the first ever "Score-o" contestant during the intermission of the first game played in Greenberg.

For many of those 32 years I also spent my summers as a hockey camp counselor, instructor, and for 20 years as the Director of the always sold out Penn State hockey camps. I made lifelong friends at the camps and met one of my best friends and golf buddies, Dick Bartolomea, as a result.

I was also an Assistant Director and Director of the Greenberg facility over the better part of my 26 years and spent the past two years as an Associate AD with oversight of the facility. A special thanks to colleagues and bosses Vance McCullough, Larry Fies, Dale Roth, Vinnie Scalamogna, Chris Whittemore, and Herb Schmidt and to all the staff and patrons, past and present, who made the facility a fun place to spend time.

But my fondest memories in Greenberg certainly come from my 19 years as the Head Coach of the Penn State Icers. Too many great moments to recount here so I will simply say that I met most of my closest friends (including my wife Heidi) and created and shared lifelong memories with thousands of players, parents, staff, sponsors, donors, and fans.

There is one weekend of games that does stand while I was coach. In March of 1989, in my second year as coach, we finished fourth in the ICHL regular season. We were the host team for the league playoffs which PSU had never won. Our team pulled off back to back upsets including twice overcoming two goal deficits in the final game to win 8-6 and capture the ICHL championship in front of a raucous standing room only crowd.

I credit that weekend as THE turning point for the future success of the Icers which from that moment on included regular SRO crowds (including 1,601 in 1991 after which the Fire Marshall limited crowds to 1350!). The Icers won 7 National Club Championships (including 4 in a row from 2000-2003) and enjoyed tremendous success over the years at the Greenberg Rink.

Fast forward to this final season in the building. Just when you thought you'd seen it all from the fledgling Penn State Men's NCAA Varsity Hockey Team, they pull off the biggest upset of the year on National TV for all the hockey world to see.

After getting whitewashed 5-0 and being outshot 51-22 by #16 Wisconsin on Sunday night in Madison, Coach Guy Gadowsky's boys pulled off another critical upset victory televised on the Big Ten Network Monday night -- 3-2 in overtime over the Badgers.

Trailing 2-0 and riding on the back of freshman goalie Matt Skoff's career high 42 saves, Sophomore Taylor Holstrom scored just 7 seconds after the Badgers 2nd goal and freshman Casey Bailey tied it with 7:44 remaining. With just :34 left in OT, Holstrom followed up his own rebound to send the Nittany Lions into an emotional victory celebration as they sent their 6 seniors out in style!

The first season of NCAA Men's Division I hockey ended with a 13-14 record against varsity competition including road wins against Michigan State, #22 Ohio State, and #16 Wisconsin.The team's overall record was 19-16 including a 5-2 exhibition win over the US National Development team.

By any objective analysis this season exceeded everyone's expectations. But not Coach Gadowsky and his staff. They set high standards and they stayed true to their "building a foundation" philosophy all year long.

Our women's team's first varsity regular season is over and they enter their first ever CHA playoffs this weekend at RIT. With 17 freshmen and only 1 senior this first season had it's share of challenges. With an outstanding recruiting class coming on board the future will only keep getting better.

Greenberg Ice Pavilion holds many special moments for Head Coach Josh Brandwene as well, including 4 years as a player. Most importantly, however, he proposed to his wife Leona at center ice after a game in his senior year.

So farewell Greenberg Ice Pavilion and thanks for the memories! Next stop: Pegula Ice Arena October 11, 2013!

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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