Opinions

HC Club Hockey Facing Scheduling Challenges

Pat Driscoll20

Guest Writer

I am writing this piece on behalf of the men’s club hockey program at Holy Cross. Our program has not seen much success in the past, with many losing seasons in our history for as far as the program goes back. However, things changed two years ago for the program in our 2017-2018 season. What started off as a typical losing season during the fall semester transitioned in the spring semester to an impressive stretch of winning, leaving us around .500 overall for the year. We took that late success with us into the 2018-2019 season and had our best season in program history. We beat league powerhouses like Boston College, the University of Vermont, Keene State, and Providence College, qualifying for the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) regional playoffs for the first time in history. We won in the first round and then suffered a loss in the next round, just two games away from qualifying for the national playoffs. We were even granted the award at Holy Cross for Club Sports Team of the Year! It was quite a successful season for the program, and that success was something we looked forward to continuing as the 2019-2020 season rolled around this year.

Leading up to the fall semester, as captain and chairman of the team, I was responsible for a lot of the communication regarding scheduling and practices. By early July, way before the season, we were able to put together a schedule comprised of both league and non-league games. We usually play 20-25 games each season, and this season was going to be the same. The schedule included dates and times of each game and was confirmed by both the school and the league. We were very surprised as the fall semester came around when we were notified that our game times were going to have to be changed, per order of the facilities at Holy Cross. Our Sunday games, which have consistently been at 7:00 p.m. for as long as the program has been around, were now going to be moved to 8:00 p.m. This was not a huge problem for us, as we would just have to notify our opponents of the one hour time change. 

The real issue came from our Tuesday night games, which have consistently been at 9:00 p.m. for the last three years I have been at school. These games all got pushed back to 10:00 p.m., which was a big problem for our team and also posed a problem for our opponents. All the schools we play are one to two hours away, so changing the game to 10:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night would be an issue for any reasonable college student who would prefer to go to sleep before 1:00 a.m. on a Tuesday night. We faced this issue when trying to reschedule our non-league Tuesday night games, and we were forced to cancel or struggle to reschedule because of this problem. We were not given enough forward notice to reschedule these games (that had been scheduled since July), so cancelling and forfeiting a loss in these games was our only option. The ACHA also has a league rule that weekday games cannot start later than 9:00 p.m. because of the hardship that places on traveling students. So now our dilemma was to either reschedule these games on short notice or be forced to forfeit the games and record a loss. We have already had to forfeit one game so far this season and reschedule four others on Tuesday nights this season because of this decision by Holy Cross.

Forfeiting games counts as a loss on our record, and our record is what the league bases the playoffs on. This affected our season significantly in the fall. The games that came early in the season we were able to tentatively reschedule at other rinks. It was tentative because teams like UMass and Providence agreed to play us at 9:00 p.m. at the Hart Center, not 9:00 p.m. at a rink 20 minutes away. They still reserve the right to tell us that they cannot come, forcing us to forfeit those games. Holy Cross is generous enough to grant our program Hart Center ice for use pro bono during allotted times of the week, something that our program greatly appreciates. When we have to go to another rink for a game, it is a very costly event. This money comes from the club hockey budget, something worked out the year before and reviewed with the school. Games at another rink can cost upwards of $1,000, taking money from other planned events in our budget like a team banquet, senior appreciation, or parents’ weekend. This unexpected change in our already scheduled games came as a shock to the team, jeopardizing our record (coming off the most successful season in history) and potentially putting us at a financial burden for the season as well.

For at least the past three years when I was at school, we have had the same ice time and same game times allotted to us each year. All that we had to deal with was figuring out with the women’s club hockey team who gets which slot of time. This has been something we have successfully and amicably figured out with them. In fact, as a volunteer coach for the women’s club hockey team, I know that they are also facing scheduling issues. This is not because of the men’s club team, because we have a friendly and open communication line with them and are both flexible when it comes to us getting our ice time each week. But now, apparently, there are more important hockey teams at the Hart Center. Not the Division I teams; I understand that they are far more important than us, and that is not an issue at all. They have the ice time all day, have never quarreled with us to change our practices, and have also never had a problem sharing the ice with us. 

The issue comes about from the select hockey teams around the area. These hockey teams are the ones who are taking our ice time from us. Why are they prioritized over Holy Cross club hockey? Because these teams can rent the ice, they were able to sign a contract that took all of the ice that the varsity teams did not have, leaving both the men’s and women’s club hockey teams the glamourous ice time of after 10:00 p.m. only during the week. Why is it that this year we were kicked from our ice time, ice that we had confirmed much earlier in the summer, when in the past it has not been an issue? Our team has always practiced at the Hart Center after the select teams have in the past, and that was never an issue because we were able to play our scheduled 9:00 p.m. games on Tuesday nights within league rules. 

When I went with a few other members of the team to speak with the athletic department about this issue, we went in seeking answers to the scheduling questions we had. We begged for them to just give us the ice time on Tuesdays for our already scheduled games, but it was to no avail. The teams that rented the ice time had an unbreachable contract with our facilities that lasted for the length of our season. We were out of luck. Our program was not allowed to negotiate with those teams for their ice, even if we offered our own ice slots as a replacement. We were not able to offer those teams or the facilities the money that other teams paid for the ice time either. The club hockey program had no say in this situation. 

Because these teams were able to pay for a season-long contract, they were granted ice time over the men’s and women’s club hockey teams. These are club teams that are comprised entirely of Holy Cross students. The teams renting this ice out were not Holy Cross students but kids from central Massachusetts, and apparently these kids were prioritized. We were specifically told that this contract takes priority over the club hockey teams. 

The men’s and women’s club hockey teams are very aggravated and annoyed by what the school did to our ice time and also about how they handled it when discussing with us. The reason I am writing this piece is to ask for a change in the future. As a senior, I’m not writing this to affect me in my last semester here. In fact, I would honestly prefer nothing to change as our season comes to a close, because the rescheduling process is quite a pain. I just hope in the future Holy Cross thinks about the club teams when they are scheduling their facilities. Our scheduling of games is done very early, in the summer prior to the school year, and is something that could very easily be worked out with the school then. The club sports programs at Holy Cross are grateful for what the school provides us, and we want to continue having this great relationship in the future. However, it was disheartening to hear that the school was choosing profits from the hockey rink over their students’ enjoyment when it comes to ice time at the Hart Center this season. I truly hope this is something that changes in the future.

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