SDSU does not need a varsity hockey team to entertain fans

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

Growing up in Minnesota, it is hard not to have at least a mild interest in hockey. I have never been a large hockey fan, but I have a passing interest in it. I never played hockey on a team, only basketball. However, when I was younger, my friends and I would spend many winter evenings playing hockey in my backyard on an ice rink my dad built.

I grew up watching the University of Minnesota Gophers hockey team. I watch the Gophers whenever I can on TV, and I have gone to a home game each of the past few seasons.

When I first arrived at SDSU, I was surprised to learn hockey was not a varsity sport. Minnesota has five different Division-I hockey programs in the state, as well as many D-III teams. I always assumed that hockey was played at every school, just like basketball and football. I forget that hockey is not as popular around the rest of the country as it is in Minnesota.

I wish SDSU would get a varsity hockey team some day. I know that it is more than likely an impossibility, but I would like to see it happen. Many smaller schools have Division-I hockey, even though the school is not a D-I school. Out of the five D-I Minnesota hockey teams, only the Gophers are Division I in all sports. The other four schools are D-II. If D-II schools in Minnesota can have Division-I hockey, I think a D-I school like SDSU should be able to have a varsity hockey team.

Hockey is a sport the Jackrabbits could possibly compete in shortly after beginning. The number of schools who actually play hockey is significantly less than other sports because of the apathy toward hockey in many of the warmer-climate states.

An example of a team succeeding shortly after going D-I is Bemidji State, in Bemidji, Minn. The team went from losing big to the Gophers in their first couple of years in D-I to beating the Gophers a season or two ago.

I believe that a varsity hockey team would help spur interest in hockey in the state of South Dakota, which would then increase the level of talent in the state from which SDSU could recruit. I also believe that SDSU could get some high school players from Minnesota and Montana, as well as Wisconsin, to come and play for them. State would not get the top players from those states, but hockey is very popular in those states and they have lot of talent.

Although SDSU does not have a varsity hockey team, it has a club team. When I first came to SDSU, I was skeptical about watching games. The U of M is consistently one of the top teams in the nation. I was worried that I would not find the games enjoyable because I was so used to the high skill-level of the Gophers. I only attended one or two hockey games my first few years in Brookings.

This year, in my position as sports editor, I went to more games to cover them for the paper. I also had the opportunity to talk to players and coaches. After attending a few games, I realized that I started to enjoy them. It helped that I had met a few players. A sporting event is usually more fun when you know some of the participants.

I also realized that though hockey is club sport and has to charge three dollars admission to raise funds, the team has a loyal fan base. The arena is usually filled with fans cheering on the Jackrabbits. The team will also have fans follow them on the road. A few of my friends followed the team on the road to St. Cloud, Minn.

The hockey played here at State is not the same caliber at which the Gophers play. The players here are not scholarship athletes. They do not have the benefits that come along with being a scholarship athlete. They are students, just like you and me, who love the game of hockey and want to continue playing it. Once I was able to look past the fact that it was a club team, I started to enjoy it for what it was – entertaining hockey.

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