The men’s club hockey team has come a long way from its humble beginning.
By Tatiana Lee
Stephen Whiting, the club hockey coach, sat raised in anticipation on his office chair. This was not just club hockey to him.
“You say it’s just club, see I hate that word, just,” said Coach Whiting. “It makes it sound like we are less than.”
Phrased the right way, he loves the word.
“We are a club that plays in a just fashion.”
Forget the word. It demeans the focus. To Coach Whiting, Club Hockey isn’t just club.
Whiting is known formally as an Associates Professor, but his players and many of his students call him Coach. He is a teacher on the ice as well as in the classroom. Whiting took the opportunity to coach the men’s club hockey team seven years ago. Tom Johnson, the former advisor of the club, was planning to retire and asked Whiting to step in. Whiting had played hockey all his life and decided it was a great opportunity. However, Whiting had no idea what he was getting himself into.
“I was not only the coach, but because guys wouldn’t show up, I threw my gear in and would play in some of our early games,” said Coach Whiting.
Commitment was a serious issue. Ice time was scarce and with a late night practice time he would sometimes arrive to only four players. Whiting began improving the team. With time, he recruited more players and found in front of him a ready and committed group of players.
Ty Walls is a senior Marketing major and one of the oldest players on the club team. He played Varsity his freshman year and decided it was not for him. For Walls, club is more than just hockey.
“Not a practice or game goes by without Whiting reminding us who we really play for,” said Walls.
In addition to being mentored by a great coach, Walls loves the atmosphere. The team has fun with everything they do.
“Winning, losing, we are all just thankful to play the game.”
The experience, competitive level and passion for the game are all reasons why Club hockey doesn’t really feel like Club hockey.
Varsity Coach Charlie Burggraf provided the team with jerseys, breezers, gloves, helmets and cheaper sticks. Not only has he played a significant role in providing equipment, he is a main reason the Club team even exists. “Charlie has helped me move this team from a disorganized club to almost a JV team” said Coach Whiting. “We look like a team. I can attribute much of that to Charlie and the men’s team.”
Coach Whiting was joined this year by veteran coach Steven Larson. The two share duties and operate as co-coaches.
The club hockey team plays 20 regular season games, and holds a record of 12-5-1 according to the ACHA website.They are currently in 3rd place in their league.
In the past, the club team played mostly club teams of other MIAC schools. When they joined the ACHA, the level of competition increased. The team still plays St. Thomas, but are also playing University of Minnesota, St. Cloud University, NDSU, UMD and Wisconsin.