Hockey probably isn’t something people think of when they think about sports at The University of Alabama. However, a dedicated hockey club team exists, even in the warm weather of Tuscaloosa.
The team, officially known as Alabama Hockey, has been in existence for around 10 years. As a club sport, they are not an official NCAA team. Instead, they play as a Division I member of the American Collegiate Hockey Association along with 54 other schools from across the country.
The home rink for the team is the Pelham Civic Complex, which is located about an hour away from Tuscaloosa. Playing and practicing so far off campus presents its own unique challenges.
Senior captain and right wing Jake Collins said playing far away limits how much work the team can put in on the ice. Both practices are about an hour and a half long and take place on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“If we had a rink on campus, we would probably practice three to five times a week for an hour,” Collins said. “We try to do longer hour and a half sessions to try and compensate for not being able to have as many practices. Having the rink far away isn’t too bad, but it definitely poses issues.”
Junior forward Jerry Jordan said dealing with the distance reveals something about the team’s character.
“If you’re committed enough to make that drive and still be a student, it really says something about how committed you are to the team,” Jordan said.
Camaraderie and chemistry are two things the team takes very seriously. Jordan calls the team “a big family” and believes the team atmosphere is crucial to success.
“We’ll pick fun at each other, but it’s like a bunch of friends hanging out every day,” Jordan said. “I’ve never had a team that had as good chemistry as the team this year does.”
It isn’t just the team’s attitude that matters. Hockey is a sport where the fans’ energy can really have an impact on a game. The noise level is particularly important. According to a 2006 article published by the Vancouver Sun, the average volume level during an NHL game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes was 104 decibels. That’s equivalent to a chainsaw running next to an ear for three hours.
College hockey doesn’t quite get that loud, but a loud crowd definitely has an impact on the home team. Jordan feels more inspired to play his best when he hears the crowd is behind him.
“The team absolutely feeds off of fans,” Jordan said. “When there are more fans, people obviously want to look good for the fans, and the players just get fired up even more.”
Both Collins and Jordan are passionate about the game, and they hope students will come out and be passionate supporters. Collins said hockey is easy to pick up at a basic level and encourages students to make the drive to Pelham to see the team in action.
“We’ve created a professional atmosphere, and we do a real good job of providing a good fan experience,” Collins said. “For a lot of students that go to Alabama, they may or may not have gone to a hockey game before. It’s real easy to pick up, and it’s a good overall experience. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has said that it’s a real fun time to come out to a game.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports