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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

A long way from ‘Win-nipiac’

The humble beginnings of men’s hockey
Cameron Levasseur
Former Quinnipiac goaltender Kent Allyn displays with a yearbook of the men’s club hockey team in one of its first seasons.

The lights go out at Hemenway Rink at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. Beads of sweat drip onto frayed jerseys as players leave the ice. They emerge from the locker room with gear slung over their shoulders and walk out into a dimly lit parking lot.

Engines hum and cars slowly trickle onto the main road, driving toward Quinnipiac’s newly built Mount Carmel Campus.

Quinnipiac men’s hockey didn’t have its own rink to practice in — Choate just happened to be available that night. It also wasn’t called Quinnipiac men’s hockey in 1967. The word “club” came first. The team played home games at Hamden High School.

The university — a college at the time — had around 3,000 students. Nobody cared about hockey, mostly because nobody knew about it.

But Charles Brophy did.

Brophy was coaching youth skating lessons in New Haven, Connecticut, when he caught wind of a men’s club hockey team forming at his alma mater. Several students petitioned the sport to former athletic director Burt Kahn, but it was no secret that he wasn’t interested in supporting a hockey team.

Brophy was, and when the head coaching position opened, he took it.

To Kahn’s dismay, Quinnipiac was going to have men’s hockey.

“We were just looking for people to play,” said Kent Allyn, one of the team’s goaltenders from 1967-71. “So Brophy said ‘you guys want to give it a try?’ and we said ‘sure.’”

Eighteen players survived tryouts. The Braves — now known as Bobcats — played in the Worcester Valley League and won two games in the 1968-69 season. The program went dormant from 1971-72 and was reinstated in 1973.

“These guys here, all of a sudden, out of the blue, ‘we’ve got itches, let’s scratch them,’” said Mark Farber, former student government president and co-editor in chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle. “They find this little pond (Clark’s Pond) over there and they start. They had the gumption.”

There was no glory, no real contention against opponents.

“It was just a bunch of guys that liked to skate,” Allyn said.

Unfortunately, those guys barely had anything other than skates. Allyn requested for the club team to become a campus sport. Kahn handed him $500 instead.

“I was in charge of the money and I ordered uniforms through the athletic department and they came through as youth uniforms,” Allyn said. “I have my old high school lacrosse jersey on, because none of the uniforms are big enough to fit over my pads.”

A closer look at yearbook photos of Quinnipiac club hockey in its early stages. (Cameron Levasseur)

Despite the new uniforms, Quinnipiac club hockey was still relatively invisible — a striking statement given its current success. But it was true.

“The co-editor-in-chief of The Quinnipiac Chronicle, Sharron Moon, didn’t even know we had a hockey club,” Allyn said. “So I took her to a game, one of the Wesleyan games, and she was so impressed that she wrote an editorial (about) ‘Why is Quinnipiac having all of these students who represent the school, dressed in kids uniforms.’ The year after that they got more money.”

The team either practiced at the crack of dawn or past sunset. It was $50 an hour to skate. But it was ice time that they desperately needed.

Pushback from the athletic department didn’t stop once the program scraped together new uniforms and a few bucks.

“When we were traveling to Worcester, we would have to leave before dinner was served here for a 7 or 8 o’clock game in Worcester,” Allyn said. “And a couple of people started complaining about it, and Burt Kahn said, ‘Oh, okay, well I’ll give you each $5 for supper.’ Never saw the $5. Every time we were coming back on the bus, we’d say ‘here’s to Burt’s $5 and take another swig of beer.”

It was clear Quinnipiac Athletics weren’t favorable to hockey. Allyn had already graduated by the time the sport lept to Division III in 1975.

“They fought, and they said ‘we want to do hockey, we want to do more than just be the neighborhood hockey team,’ and they were here and they had this feeling because you’re a brand new family, you’re coming together on a new campus, new buildings, new this, new this, new everything, and ‘hey guys, we should be a team’ and they were,” Farber said.

Life still wasn’t easy for Quinnipiac hockey, but at the very least, it was an NCAA program. Players trekked through muddy farmland — which is now the brick buildings surrounding the Mount Carmel Quad — to get back to their dorms. There wasn’t much money to fund the growing program, but there was support.

“All people used to talk about was (Boston College), and (Boston University) and Harvard,” former player Bill Frame said. “Then it changed over to Quinnipiac (and), once they started playing them… they really handled it. (The NCAA) let them into that league and just showed them how good they were.”

People finally started to care, because people finally knew.

“The entire community worked to create this place, and the entire community, pinching its pennies, scrounging its nickels, is what started everything, so I absolutely think that it’s a deeper story than just a hockey team or a basketball team,” Farber said.

A familiar echo rings around the quad on a gusty afternoon. Wind whips the flags hanging outside the student center, slamming against the metal pole in a rhythmic fashion. That’s flags, plural. Because right below the American flag hangs a bright yellow banner, the national championship logo etched in the center.

Just a few steps away in the Arnold Bernhard Library, Allyn’s voice trembles.

“I’ve been following the team ever since they started off in Division III, so it’s really impactful for me. I think it was marvelous work that Rand Pecknold created and I only wish that I was young and around to have him as a coach.”

“When they scored, aside from the fun fact that I did call it, I really did,” Farber said. “I said ‘I was a proud papa,’ because it happened under my watch, and a lot of other guys’ watches, that were here that cared.”

Cameron Levasseur contributed to this piece.

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About the Contributors
Amanda Dronzek
Amanda Dronzek, Sports Editor
Cameron Levasseur
Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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    Mark FarbeApr 24, 2024 at 11:57 am

    Amanda and Cameron.
    Thank you for capturing a time in history that shows determination, dedication and perseverance of the creation of a sports team can lead to a CHAMPIONSHIP outcome!