Previous students’ efforts to start a hockey club team have been stunted by a lack of coordination or interest on campus, but this year the dream team will become a reality.
President of the club and sophomore Zack Niebolt said the success in starting a team this year is largely due to freshmen interest.
“Thanks to all the freshmen that came in this year we are able to get a team started,” Niebolt said. “My problem last year was that there simply wasn’t a big group of freshmen that were into it.”
When freshman Ben Hanson arrived at Hillsdale, he emailed the boys’ dormitories to see who might be interested in starting a club team. Word soon got to Niebolt, who met with Hanson to compare notes.
Between the combined efforts of the two, the Student Activities Board newsletter, and word of mouth, they were able to get a full club roster.
Hanson, who is also the team’s Director of Facilities, said Niebolt’s attempts at starting a team last year laid the foundation.
“I sent the email out and Zack was one of the first people to reply,” Hanson said. “It helped because Zack tried to do this last year. So it was just a matter of getting enough names.”
The team is co-ed but currently has one girl — sophomore Morgan Billingsley — on the roster.
“I adore playing the game, so when I heard a club team was forming, I couldn’t wait to be a part of that,” Billingsley said. “I know some of the guys on the team, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I was usually the only girl on my teams in high school, so I’m used to playing in that environment.”
“Honestly, I’m more comfortable on co-ed teams than girls-only teams because the guys aren’t afraid to be aggressive and play the sport how it was meant to be played, which is physically,” Billingsley added.
As far as positions on the team go, Hanson said he believes everyone is committed to doing whatever it takes to have all the positions filled.
“It’s a long time coming, it’s something people have wanted,” Hanson said. “There used to be a team here, so the history’s there, it’s just trying to find the people to organize it and do it again.”
“We’re all ready to bear the weight of what’s to come,” he continued. “We all want to play the game for the school and have fun doing it.”
The skill levels among players vary, but everyone on the team is excited for the opportunity to get back on the ice.
“Being from Minnesota, I grew up skating since I was 2 or 3 years old,” junior Philip Andrews said. “I never played hockey competitively because of the expense and time commitment, but during my whole childhood my favorite winter activity was to play pick-up hockey. Now I finally get the chance to actually play and it will be in a package that I can commit to.”
According to Niebolt, anyone who is interested can join.
“Our goal is not to win games, our goal is to have fun,” Niebolt said. “So if you would have fun playing hockey, we would love to have you.”
The plan now is for the team to play against “beer league” teams on Tuesday nights at an ice rink in Jackson, Michigan. Due to the schedules of some team members, the team will not start playing until next semester unless three more people want to join now.
In the time between now and then, Niebolt says he plans to talk to donors and local businesses for funding.
Regardless of external support, the guys expressed dedication to playing this year.
“Everyone on the team seems pretty committed to it, so it will happen either way,” Andrews said. “But it will be nice to see some alumni, donors, or others support us.”