By Brian Yauger
After missing the 2018-19 season, the Youngstown State University club hockey program looks to be taking another season off, with the possibility of the program folding again.
“We were planning on taking a year off to kind of recruit and get funding and stuff,” Penguins forward Chase Hovel said. “Because of lack of commitment and people not putting in the time the team needed, it seems like the hockey program is going to cease to exist entirely until a new group comes along that can revitalize it, and actually put the time they need to recruiting players and getting the fundraising.”
Before suspending operations, the Penguins played in Division II of the American Collegiate Hockey Association and held their home games at the Deep Freeze Ice Arena in Boardman, Ohio. When the team returns to the ice, that isn’t expected to change.
If YSU’s hockey team were an NCAA-sponsored program, a lot of issues with the team would be less of a problem. Being a club team, the players are on the hook for most if not all of their equipment, which can go into the hundreds of dollars if estimated generously.
“If we weren’t NCAA team, the team could offer scholarships to the students that are incoming,” Hovel said. “So, instead of having to pay, however much to play, they’re getting paid to be there. They don’t have to worry as much. NCAA teams tend to get some free gear, but the club team — we pretty much have to pay for all of our gear.”
While people weren’t looking to lead, Hovel stepped up and became an officer. He said he didn’t do enough to recruit incoming players because, like every college student, his schedule is full.
“I didn’t try to push as much as I should have for some of the things,” Hovel said. “I didn’t push recruiting as hard as I should have. I work almost full time, so I don’t have the time to do a lot of the recruiting and stuff between college and work. All the other players and officers, including myself, needed to do more recruiting. We needed to do more fundraising. We need to get hockey’s name out there better.”
There were talks of an ice rink being built on or near campus, which would have helped the team, but those plans fell through. The Penguins reached out to the Covelli Centre for practices as a way to ease the burden of driving to Boardman for practice every day, but would be charged over $100 per hour of ice time.
Going forward, the Penguins face plenty of challenges if they want to take the ice again. With how expensive the sport is, the fate of the team is up in the air. But Hovel is doing his best to make sure the Penguins can see the puck drop once again.