By Carolo Pascale
Rider Ice hockey is vying to be one of the first of Rider’s club sports to get back into action and have official practices and games.
The coaches and players are hoping to get back on the ice and finally get the ball rolling on having a season this year.
As of now, none of Rider’s club sports are having any official in-person practices or games.
“We’re not doing anything right now and everything is pretty much on hold for us,” said Head Coach Sean Levin.
“We are working, however, with the mindset that we will be practicing and playing games come January. The ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) is leaving it to the discretion of the universities to decide if they want to play. We are really just waiting on Rider to give us some opportunities right now.”
“I think with some of the [Division I] sports like men’s and women’s soccer starting to practice with protocols, I think there are some opportunities where we can try and bring people into the loop and open a dialogue to maybe see what options are available. There are high school and youth hockey teams that are starting to play as well, but you have to look at the bigger picture, which is health and safety.”
Some Division I athletic teams at Rider have recently started practicing, and teams like men’s and women’s basketball recently had their schedules announced.
Ice hockey has taken note of those practices and many of the players on the team have taken it upon themselves to try and set up unofficial, player only, open-team skates.
Senior forward Michael Klein had been to the few open skates the team has had.
“When you get back on the ice you’re a little bit rusty, but it feels amazing and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. All I really want to do is just get back out there and skate. That’s what we have been doing with some player-organized open skates recently and during the summer. We would get 10 to 15 guys out and just skate around.”
The team has also been getting together from time to time to play roller hockey, Klein said.
In addition to setting up the player-run skates, many of the players live together, which has been aiding the team in staying in shape and keeping morale high for when real practices and the season has the chance to come around.
“There’s about three hockey houses that the guys have and most of us live with each other. We all do homework together and hang out with each other. Obviously we would like to be on the ice together two to four times a week, but we’re doing the best we can right now to stay close,” Klein said.
Sophomore defenseman Eddie Coyne also commented about being a commuter this year and how he has been able to stay in touch with the rest of the team.
“I’m the only one commuting here. I’m about 45 minutes away down in Point Pleasant, so I don’t get to see the guys too much. But I’m able to stay in touch through our group chats and texts.”
There are other commuters on the team and multiple players said the main way the team communicates is through team chats or texts.
Bringing in freshman or transfer players has also been hard for the team with no way to integrate them into the team’s system.
Levin mentioned using Zoom and other coaching programs to teach core team values, philosophy and basics.
Zoom meetings are a short-term way to be able to give freshmen and transfers a chance to learn what the program is all about and what is expected of them once they get back on the ice.
Junior forward Tyler Giwerowski lives in one of the hockey houses the team has and two freshman players live in that house with him.
Giwerowski was very adamant about how well the freshmen were being integrated into the team, even though none of them had played together.
“It’s been great so far. I actually went to high school with two of them, so they knew what to expect when they got to Rider. I’ve been in their ear a lot talking about school and I know the rest of the guys are really helping them out big time.”
Overall, the players and coaches are just frustrated that they can’t start to practice or have games at this moment.
Klein expressed his frustration at how Rider’s Division I sports can practice but the team can’t.
“It’s very frustrating being able to see the [Division 1] teams practice and we can’t. We usually practice two to three times a week. I just think that’s kind of unfair to us. It’s frustrating in that aspect because if they can practice then we should be able to as well. Especially because our practices are off-campus and we wouldn’t have 20 to 30 guys coming on campus.”
Levin also expressed some frustration on the matter.
“Mike’s right and it’s definitely frustrating, but we have to remind ourselves we aren’t a varsity program sometimes. I know there’s ways and I know there’s restrictions. Maybe we would be able to get small groups on the ice. There are creative ways to do it and I hope they will evolve over the coming days and weeks.”
Levin spoke about how the season and practices can be started, but his final words summarized it best.
“There are some opportunities, if done extremely smartly, with keeping health and academics at the forefront, we can do something to get the program going again and growing for the future,” Levin said.