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Penn State Ice Hockey: Honoring the Past, Anticipating the Future

by on February 16, 2011 6:00 AM

On Feb. 4 and 5, I was fortunate to be a part of the Icers alumni weekend that was the largest gathering ever of the Icers family for an alumni function. It was a time to honor the past, celebrate the present, and anticipate an exciting future for hockey at Penn State.

Icers alumni weekend is always a fun and emotional weekend for me. It was especially interesting to see the looks on the faces of so many of my former teammates and players when they saw how my kids had grown up. They were just babies when many had last seen them. It was great to see so many of the former players and their families back to share in the excitement surrounding the program. Friendships created 10, 20, 30 and even 70 years ago were rekindled in an instant. 

The “grandfather” of Penn State Hockey, John Dufford, who played for the 1939-1942 teams, was back as he has been every year. This time we surprised him with a birthday cake and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate his 90th birthday! The “godfather” of Penn State hockey, Paul Cohen, was also back in town, escaping the frigid climate of Raleigh, N.C. (They have had a worse winter than we have!) Five former coaches made it back, including Larry Hendry, Clayton John, Mark Horgas, Larry Rocha, and me. It was also great to have Jim “Jamie” Hettema back all the way from San Jose, Calif., and to honor his father, Bob “Duke” Hettema, another former Icers coach who passed away a few years ago. Duke was one of a kind and a fiery supporter of the ice hockey program. He helped start the State College Youth Hockey Association and was a fixture around the rink for years. 

Some of our more recent grads made it back as well. The former team captain of our 2000 national championship team, Ryan Wick, made it in all the way from Switzerland with his wife and two young boys. Former national championship goalie John Sixt and his wife and son made the trip up from Texas to see us, as did a large contingent of the original members of the 1971-72 club team that helped bring hockey back to campus after a 25-year hiatus! The current Icers team was well represented for the awarding of the Hall Of Fame inductees, getting a glimpse of what may be to come for some of them.

The annual alumni game was played at 5 p.m. Saturday and was among the best turnouts ever for an alumni game. The evening started with a reception to get reacquainted and to meet other members of the Icers Family. Penn State Athletics Director Tim Curley was inducted into the Icers Hall of Fame for his years of support for the program and his efforts in taking the program to varsity status. The executive director of College Hockey, Inc., Paul Kelly, spoke about the future of hockey at Penn State and in the country, and hinted that we might be playing in a certain conference as early as 2013! We welcomed new Icers family members Terry and Kim Pegula who pledged $88 million for the Pegula Ice Arena and endowment for the team. It is the largest gift ever given to Penn State and gets us a long way toward our goal of being a self-sustaining operation.

Local entrepreneurs Paul and Nancy Silvis capped off a wonderful evening by announcing their personal pledge of $1 million to name the main lobby. Paul and Nancy also offered to lead the campaign to raise the remaining money necessary to endow the program.

Another highlight of the evening was the premiere of a video created by Icer alum and Emmy Award-winning director Mike Messner (Class of 1992).

It says it all: “This is a time like no other…..Are you going to be part of it?”

For the nearly 200 Icers alums and their families who made it back for the weekend, they realized, too, that “dreams do come true.”

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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