One of the prouder moments in my life just occured. Penn State Ice Hockey has officially gone NCAA Division 1. Goose bumps galore, and maybe I'll shed a tear when the euphoria subsides.
As a Penn State hockey player from 1998-2002, I, along with my teammates, always harbored a dream that Division 1 status would occur during our tenure at Penn State. While we were officially club status, we always thought of ourselves as more than that. Maybe it was the packed houses we played in (at home and sometimes on the road at places like Ohio Universiity, where getting spit on by fans was the norm), or the consistent coverage we received in the Daily Collegian, or the overall respect we received from the athletic department, or all the free Nike gear. There were always rumors, and whenever we would beat an NCAA Division 1 Team (who eventually stopped scheduling us), or a college squad from Canada, or throttled another NCAA Division III team by 8 goals, the rumor mill and the "Why aren't you guys D1?" chatter would surface. Yup, we all had heard about a possible "mystery donor". There was never a shortage of speculation, and some of us had glimpsed the actual blueprint of the arena that "would be built over near the golf course".
But we never focused too much on it. We attended an amazing school, won ACHA National Championships, developed lifelong friendships, and some of us even got to play for Team USA at the World University Games in Zakopane Poland--an opportunity of a lifetime if there ever was one. Sure some of us took some flack when we chose Penn State over some other sexier options out of high school. But, we were proud of what we had--even if we didn't have the scholarships in our pocket. As time progressed, I would go back to the Boston area, and hockey folk would start asking "So, I've heard you guys got something good going on down there...". The respect was established.
When we realized it would not happen during our tenure at Penn State, several of us found solace in the fact that our hard work and dedication might have laid the foundation for something bigger. Sure, money would be the true foundation, but winning back-to-back-to-back National Championships, having an outstanding academic reputation, and representing Penn State with pride and class would be the true catalysts.
With Coach Joe Battista
The group that started together in '98 shown here in May of 2002, and the "Seniors'" last time together on ice.
Congratulations to people like Dr. Ray Lombra, Ruth Hussey and Dr. Paul Cohen and more recently Scott Balboni who put in literally thousands of hours developing student athletes and never gave up on the dream. President Graham Spanier's attendance at games was always something we always cherished. And we have to all give a tip of the cap to Coach Joe Battista. Make no question about it, if anyone is responsible for this day, it is him.
There are hundreds of players and dozens of faculty that deserve an unending amount of credit--too many to mention, but I'm sure will get officially recognized at some point.
President Spanier takes a spin on the Zam
And THANK YOU Terry & Kim Pegula for donating the $88 million springboard!
My only question is: when do we play Michigan?