By EMILY SHUMAKER
It has been a year since two ambitious freshmen started the process of creating an ice hockey sports club for the University of Mary Washington. Under new leadership, the team will officially hit the ice for their first game on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2018, against Christopher Newport University.
For sophomore Nathan Mitchell, president of the UMW Ice Hockey Club, this season is a long time coming. After one of the original founders transferred and many members went inactive, most of the responsibility to get it started fell on his shoulders.
“It’s been a lot of recruiting, paperwork and working with people,” said Mitchell. “It’s been a lot more than I expected, but it will be worth it hopefully. It feels like I’m taking like a 6-credit class right now.”
Mitchell has worked to communicate with coaches, schedule games far in advance, coordinate time slots for practices, figure out transportation and determine funding. According to the campus recreation website, the process of starting a new club requires setting up an appointment with the campus recreation professional staff, writing out a club constitution, submitting a signature campaign and proposing a budget.
As outlined by campus recreation, even after being approved as a club, a new club is required to cover the costs until funds are allocated to them in the spring semester.
“The club actually almost died last year,” said Mitchell. “The dues were just way too much. The funding was just a mess. And out of nowhere, the school offered to pay for our practice slots. That was the boost we needed.”
Recruiting team members for the ice hockey team was a slow process, but what started out as a few slowly turned into a team. They are not playing a full three lines yet, but they expect to grow after their initial season.
“It’s hard here at a smaller school to find people who play hockey,” said Mitchell. “We’d see someone rollerblading on campus or wearing a Capitals jersey and ask ‘Hey, do you play hockey?’ Some of the time, the answer would be yes, but most of the time, no. It was a slow process,” said Mitchell.
The University of Mary Washington does not have their own ice rink, so the team practices at Prince William Ice Center in Woodbridge.
“It’s a lot harder to find people who play hockey and are willing to dedicate their time to it, because practices are at 5:00 a.m. in the morning, which means we have to leave at 4:00 a.m., which means we have to get up by 3:15 a.m.”
“We had to get people van-certified because that’s how we are getting to the games, so that was just another road bump we had to get over,” added Mitchell.
Angus Long, a sophomore at UMW and secretary of the Ice Hockey Club, helps drive the team vans to practices and games and organizes meetings. Long also manages the @umwhockeyclub Twitter and Instagram accounts. The team is trying to get their name out there this season and gain support.
Both Long and Mitchell have played ice hockey from a young age.
“I’ve been on the ice since I was in grade school. I learned to skate when I was about 5-6 years old and started to play when I was 7-8 years old,” said Long.
Games must be scheduled in advance, so Mitchell has been scheduling games since early July.
“It was honestly like a gamble. Going into this year, we had about 3-4 people ready to play. I just started scheduling games and hoped it would work out. Sure enough, it did. It was nerve-racking. Luckily it all worked out, but it was a big leap of faith,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell and Long have received a lot of help from the school and the rest of the team. The team is starting to grow close through group chats and hanging out outside of practices. Mitchell said that Club Carnival drew in 25-30 recruits, but only 7-8 were able to commit to the team. The team is co-ed and anybody can join. They are still welcoming members for this season.
In anticipation of the coming season, Mitchell hopes to make it through strong in this first season, to build a foundation of getting better for the future.
“Being able to make it through this season is going to be the hardest one, obviously because we don’t have a huge team, but we’re just going to keep growing and getting better. We’re going to form more chemistry with each other. We already are. It will just be tough at the beginning, but definitely worth it,” said Mitchell.
“I don’t expect anything like Vegas this year, but I am expecting us to compete in a few games. It looks like we have some exciting talent and I think we’ll have a season to build on for future years. This year is really about getting our name out there and hopefully gaining popularity in the school,” said Long.
The club is official: papers signed, jerseys on, a team formed. As the sun goes down on Saturday and they hit the fresh ice, this will be a dream coming true for a group of athletes who love the sport.