Despite the strides made in growing youth hockey and developing a viable hockey program in Atlanta, Georgia it seems that opposition remains in many circles.
The Kennesaw Owls hockey team might be able to relate.The hockey season is well underway and the Kennesaw Owls remain on the sidelines, or more accurately in the penalty box.
First Atlanta took a major hit with the sale of the NHL Thrashers leaving a huge hockey void in the city. The mayor and members of the city council were unwilling to allocate financial support or partnering with the NHL to keep the team in Atlanta.
It is a fact that flourishing NHL franchises result in more interest in hockey which translates into more ice facilities, more participants and ultimately more revenue for local business.
Success breeds success as they say.
The Boston Bruins proved to be a perfect model of what I am talking about because they grew youth hockey to unbelievable levels and built ice skating facilities all over the city based on consumer demand which soon filled rink after rink to capacity. Thanks mostly to the success of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the rest of the Big Bad Bruins Stanley Cup teams of the 1970’s, Boston is an established hotbed for all levels of hockey. Prep schools, college hockey, AAA elite programs and more are entrenched in Massachusetts thanks exceptional support from every corner of the community.
Atlanta’s story is different in many ways. First the Flames left town for Calgary and became a cup winning profitable franchise, now the Thrashers have departed to Winnipeg and appear on the cusp of becoming a playoff team with sellout crowds’ almost every game.
Ironically many of the players who make up the core of the Winnipeg Jets were drafted or traded for by the Thrashers.
Atlanta, up until recently could also boast about having a college hockey connection with Kennesaw State University.
Sadly, Kennesaw’s club hockey team has been suspended for the entire 2013-14 season.
When I contacted the powers that be inside the schools intramurals department the first response received was “no comment.” Several people on the other end of the line even refused to provide a name.
After calling back several times, the following day I was connected to University Relations which directed me to Laura St. Onge who supervises the intramurals department at the school.
When I asked about the status of the Owls hockey club she said” The KSU hockey club violated the club sports policy and will not play in 2013-14.”
I asked would the team be eligible to play in 2014-15 and she responded “All we addressed in the 2013-14 year.”
St.Onge was cordial, but did not provide any other information, including answering questions about the specifics surrounding the incident that led to suspension of play of the Owls for the entire year.
The prevailing rumor is that the club was disciplined for drinking, trashing hotel room(s) and some unacceptable behavior involving minors. None of the allegations have been officially confirmed by anyone familiar with the hockey program.
The Owls prior to the suspension have managed to accomplish some remarkable things considering that they are a club team with no direct affiliation with the University sports program.
In April 10‚ 2007 Kennesaw State University celebrated a national championship.
The KSU Ice Owls won the national championship in Division III of the American Collegiate Hockey Association‚ finishing the season 22−7.
The team’s president‚ Ryan Falvai‚ presented the championship trophy to President Daniel S. Papp and Nancy King‚ vice president for student success‚ in front of the James V. Carmichael Student Center.
“This is just an indication of what a small group of folks who are extremely dedicated and extremely skilled can do‚” Papp said as he accepted the trophy on behalf of the university’s students‚ faculty and staff. “Congratulations. You guys are wonderful‚ and you brought Kennesaw State national recognition.”
Papp also presented copies of a resolution passed by the Georgia House of Representatives‚ honoring the KSU Ice Owls for their outstanding season and championship victory.
Intramural and club sports play an important role in student life‚ as do intercollegiate sports‚ Papp said. During the Inaugural State of the University Address in March‚ Papp highlighted how club sports provide a way for the KSU community to come together to cheer on a home team‚ building camaraderie that athletic events bring.
Intramurals and club sports “aid in retention and graduation by keeping students engaged in campus life‚” the president said.
Recently things have changed a bit. Kennesaw State University President Papp conducted a Town Hall Meeting to brief the campus on the potential implications of $14.1 million in Fiscal Year campus-wide budget cut four years later.
Some players who wish not to be named speculated that the program was suspended for budgetary concerns and to hasten the purchase of the Kennesaw Ice forum (practice facility) for conversion to a parking lot.
The President’s office was contacted for a statement about the hockey team, but no return call was received before time of publishing.
The obvious saving grace in Atlanta is the University of Georgia Ice Dogs whom have increase tyheir exposure and are now attracting players from the US and Canada.