Fun fact: SUNY New Paltz used to have an ice hockey team.
Yes, that’s right. The Ice Hawks were a club team for nearly 30 years, playing from the fall of 1986 to the spring of 2015. The only trace of their existence on campus can be found in the Elting Gym in the form of two pictures that make up the border of an announcement board near the dance studio.
The team called the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie their home for most of their tenure because, as readers may know, there is no hockey rink in the town of New Paltz. However, after the announcement of the construction of the Athletic and Wellness Center in the late ’90s, current Vice President of Enrollment Management L. David Eaton pushed for a rink to be added to campus. In a 1998 letter, he argued the fact that SUNY New Paltz was one of the few SUNY schools without a rink at the time.
“The SUNY New Paltz Hockey Club currently spends $20,000 per year for a minimal level of practice and game ice time,” Eaton wrote. “At such time as [a rink] is developed, it will become an important and highly visible regional resource. New Paltz has the opportunity to provide this to the community while incurring the revenue, public relations, recreation and athletic benefits associated with it.” Disappointingly, his request was never realized, and the Center was built without ice.
The Hawks were a member of the Metropolitan Collegiate Hockey Conference, playing in the “Hudson Division” alongside schools such as New York University (NYU), Stevens Institute of Technology and Columbia University. Interestingly, nearby Marist College was placed in the “Empire Division” alongside the University at Albany and Binghamton State and not the Hudson Division despite their proximity to New Paltz.
It was surprisingly cheap to start a full-fledged hockey club in the ’80s, with the original 1986 budget requesting only $1,835. As the club’s success increased, so did their popularity. For numerous seasons in the 1990s, full-fledged team programs were created, with coach bios, roster headshots and local advertisements. Lance Edelman began coaching the team in 1993, standing behind the Hawks’ bench during their most popular and successful seasons.
The reason for their demise presumably came down to budget issues. It had been a problem for years, as hockey is a notoriously expensive sport. In the 2011-12 season, the cost of ice time alone came out to be nearly $16,500. For their final season in 2014-15, the Ice Hawks played at the Kiwanis Ice Arena in Saugerties instead of their long time nest in Poughkeepsie.
Their total budget for that season came out to be a hefty $28,806.25, with the team having to buy their own socks for their uniforms. Over time, the hefty bill the team was racking up was most likely difficult for the Student Association and club members to maintain, leading to their folding.
Former players and coaches could not be reached for comment.
Being a hockey fan, it would be phenomenal to see the team resurrected.
However, with the trend of steadily rising costs of ice time and transportation, it seems unlikely that they will come back. Local hockey enthusiasts will have to find their fix elsewhere.