This Christmas, a chance to play hockey

With the rising popularity of college football in Oregon, the hype over the addition of Greg Oden to the Blazers, and the minimal attention that is given to the Portland Winter Hawks hockey team, most people would not think of ice hockey as Portland’s sport of choice. Yet according to J.J. York, a student at Portland State, Portland loves hockey.

With the rising popularity of college football in Oregon, the hype over the addition of Greg Oden to the Blazers, and the minimal attention that is given to the Portland Winter Hawks hockey team, most people would not think of ice hockey as Portland’s sport of choice. Yet according to J.J. York, a student at Portland State, Portland loves hockey.

This past year, York started a Division II men’s ice hockey team at PSU, the first in the school’s history. The team practices twice a week, and those practices seem to be paying off.

The PSU Vikings ice hockey team is undefeated at home this season and has an overall 6-2-1 record.
All of the members of the Vikings hockey team have previous experience with the sport, having played on high school or other college teams. Many have ambitions to continue playing after college.

“It is a club because we went through the rec department, but we play with actual Division II college teams,” said York. “It is really legit college hockey. The only difference is the school isn’t funding it 100 percent.”

York began work to form the team at PSU in October 2006, almost a full year before the team played their first game. York developed a club constitution, had a series of interviews with Campus Recreation advisers, and, of course, he recruited members.

This year, the team is classified as a club sport under the PSU Campus Recreation department. While Campus Recreation pays $1,500 of the team’s expenses, the players must still pay out of pocket to play—$2,000 per season.

“We funded most of the budget by player expense,” said Al Yuker, the club’s treasurer, who also works for Student Activities and Leadership Programs, the group that oversees Campus Recreation and all student groups. “I’d say 95 percent.”

But to continue to play in future seasons, the team will need to produce as much as $80,000 a year, the base cost to operate a hockey team, said Stephen “Skip” Berry, director of media relations and marketing for the club.

The team is currently operating at about $20,000 for the 2007-08 season, Berry said. In future seasons, the budget will have to increase.

The team, which practices and plays at the Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver, Wash., is a few players short of average, with only 13 players compared to the typical 20.

As the season continues, they are preparing to play two games at Arizona State on Dec. 8 and 9. After Arizona State, the team will play Texas State on Jan. 9 and Western Washington on Jan. 11 before returning home on Jan. 18 for a game against Oregon State.

Lance Gilbert, the team’s head coach, said their current success could be attributed to the players’ talent, the intensity of their practices and the aptitude they have for understanding what he coaches.

All staff members for the Vikings hockey team are currently volunteers. The team practices on ice only once a week, and the new team is still within their probation year with the American Collegiate Hockey Association, so they cannot participate in nationals, Berry said.

The team will look to increase both their practices on ice and games after they become eligible for nationals. Doing so will increase travel expenses greatly.

Paying staff members, one of the team’s goals, will also increase operating expenses. Coaches within the league make $800 to $900 a month on average, Berry said, and as much as $2,000.

Berry said the team is still very competitive, even if their budget is not very large.

“This is one of the best teams out there that people don’t know about yet,” said Berry, who is also the official broadcaster for the Vikings hockey team on Viks Radio and was previously the voice of the Fort Vancouver Pioneers (Junior Hockey Club) on News Radio 1190 KEX.

The hockey season lasts from October to the middle of February, and goes longer if the team makes it into the finals. Practices are held on ice each Thursday and on land every Monday. The team plans to hold tryouts in January for additional players for the winter term.

“We need numbers in the sense of having enough bodies so we are not worn down physically against a team of a fuller roster,” Gilbert said. “We also need lines with a couple talented goal scorers.”

Anyone interested in trying out can contact York at [email protected]

A complete schedule of games, as well as additional information about the team can be found online at www.psuvikingshockey.com.