The Illinois State club hockey team has been holding tryouts over the past few weeks in the hopes of replacing the seniors of last year in time for the team’s first game on September 21 at Missouri University.
“This season is going to be very interesting,” team treasurer Connor Anderson said.
Starting a new season with three new captains and three new coaches is a situation the team has never faced before. Another hurdle the team must overcome is the loss of its top goalie.
“It’s hard when you don’t have one guy that you know from day one is going to be your main guy,” Anderson said.
After running a summer mini-camp for potential recruits, team president Jordan Leach already sees potential in the new players.
“You can definitely tell who is going to make the team and we try to get them blending into the rest of the team as quickly as possible,” Leach said.
The hockey team faces more than just a change in the lineup this year. It will now be playing six home games at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, and has secured the primetime start of 7 p.m.
To accommodate the influx of attention on the hockey team, Campus Recreation has provided the team with game-day interns to help set up banners and boards around the rink.
“Hopefully this will turn it into more of an event than just a game that people can come out and watch,” Leach said.
Anderson is confident that the spotlight will not affect the players’ performances on the ice. In past years, the team has held over half of its practices on the Coliseum ice, so players have experienced what its like to play in the venue’s environment.
“It might be different for the new guys,” Anderson said. “When I first started playing on that rink, the puck would get lost when it was up in the air and it’s a little hard to keep track of.”
Anderson, a Rockford native, has been playing hockey for 14 years and joined the ISU team upon a recommendation from older team members.
Leach, who has also been playing hockey for most of his life, started at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, but transferred to ISU his sophomore year.
“The ISU team is just more organized and run better,” Leach said.
One innovation that Campus Recreation and team captains have come up with is to run more promotions during the games at the Coliseum. During one of the games played around the winter holidays, fans are asked to bring a stuffed animal to be tossed onto the ice after the first goal is scored. After being collected, the animals will be donated to a children’s organization.
“This year is a lot different because [in past years] we haven’t had the support that we do this year with all of the RSOs helping us out,” Anderson said.
In previous years, it has been up to the team to come up with promotional ideas, however, this year the club sports program has taken that responsibility off of their shoulders.
With the Coliseum as a venue and a more popular game time, the team is hoping to get a larger audience out to watch it play. To do that, players need to spread the word about their upcoming season.
“We have two specific interns that have advertising majors or minors that are really going to try to promote us,” Leach said.
The team also utilized the Club Sports Expo, as well as Festival ISU and the Sweet Corn Festival, to bring in audience members, as well as players.
“We think the Sweet Corn Festival promotion will help us a lot, because you get people from the community who didn’t even know ISU had a hockey team to come out in addition to friends and family of people on the team,” Anderson said.
The team is eagerly awaiting its first game against Missouri, as well as its first home game against Iowa, which will be played on September 27 at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.