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Friday, December 1, 2023

Ice Hockey

UH Club Hockey puts Houston back on ice

UH’s new club Ice Hockey team begins its inaugural season this fall. | Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Since the departure of the Aeros from Houston in 2013, ice hockey has become somewhat of a niche interest. While the city is host to several rec-leagues and club teams, the sport has seen little interest on the college level. That is, until recently.

UH Club Ice Hockey hit the ground running back in May. The announcement that hockey is coming to UH was met with simultaneous surprise and excitement, with the team’s first season slated to begin this fall.

While hockey is a welcome surprise for many UH students, for club President James Calderone and Vice President Garrett Macouiller the sport is just second nature.

Hailing from Stillwater, Minnesota and Fairbanks, Alaska, respectively, Calderone and Macouiller were met with disappointment by the lack of a vibrant hockey community at UH.

“There were schools half our size (with hockey teams),” Calderone said. “I knew if I tried hard enough to get the word out, I could find at least one dozen people with solid ice hockey experience. Just to put a team on the ice, I knew it was possible.”

“I knew a lot of people who play hockey here in Houston,” Macouiller said. “I told them ‘Hey, UH is starting a team.’ A lot of them were going to other schools, but now they’re going to UH.”

Despite ice hockey’s growing popularity and presence in the south, Houston remains the largest city in the U.S. without an NHL franchise.

Once Calderone began placing fliers around campus the word gradually began to spread. Calderone says the club has a full squad and then some, with more than enough players and a diverse range of experience.

Since UH does not have an ice rink of its own, and the team is a sports club by nature, the team will play and practice at the Sugar Land Ice and Sports Center.

The team’s club status also means it must fundraise on its own and handle promotion in-house, which has brought challenges. With the club’s initial on-campus promotions posted around spring break, Calderone says initial interest was slow. Additionally, summer break has meant the team had little success advertising around campus.

To confront these issues with promotion, the board has worked to get involved in the Houston hockey community, attending events in the city with merchandise and information for attendees.

Planning to compete in Collegiate Division II in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, UH Club Ice Hockey is looking to legitimize hockey in the fourth-largest city in the U.S.

The team’s Director of Communications, Hayden Victoria, hopes the student-led endeavor will show Houston it is ready for competitive hockey at higher levels.

“It goes to further the mission and further that the Houston hockey community is strong,” Victoria said.

UH Club Ice Hockey’s first-ever game is slated to be on Sept. 8 in Sugar Land. Games will be free for UH students to attend, with tailgates and other traditional gameday events planned, as well.

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