Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Skating on thin ice

AU senior Beau Lavender is $12,000 in debt. His credit card is maxed out. And it’s not because he’s paying for tuition and textbooks. No, every nickel he makes goes to the Coral Springs Incredible Ice Sportsplex, where he pays $275 an hour to rent an ice rink for the FAU hockey club.

Lavender, the team manager, doesn’t seem particularly worried about his precarious personal finances. Maybe it’s because his team is doing so well. The hockey club is currently ranked second in the Southern division of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (see box).

Despite the high level of play, the team is still under the radar of FAU students. Even freshman Jeff Tuttle, who tried out for the team and made it this year, says, “That’s how it is, nobody knows about hockey at FAU.” The hockey team can’t even use the Owls as part of their name. Instead they are referred to as “The FAU Ice Hockey Club.” The blandness of their name hardly describes the recent attainments of this “Owls” team, however.

FAU students may be unaware of this Owls hockey club, but the same can’t be said for the Coral Springs community. Lavender says the team has raked in $5000 in ticket sales so far this season – $1400 in just one home game back in their season opener in November.

Sure, the NHL lockout could be a part of the reason Coral Springs residents are turning up at games in unprecedented numbers. (The NHL players and team owners, including those with the Florida Panthers, have cancelled much of the season because they disagree on a salary cap.) But that doesn’t explain why these Owls sell more team T-shirts to Coral Springs residents than to FAU students.

FAU’s ice hockey coach Tim Kyrokostas says his team is definitely benefiting from the NHL shutdown. “The NHL lockout is unfortunate for hockey fans. If they miss hockey, the passion and energy of it, we are a less expensive brand of good quality of play,” he says.

Coach Kyrokostas knows about NHL hockey – he played for the Washington Capitols and the New York Islanders minor league before an injury ended his career in 2003.

Coach Kyrokostas recalls one hockey game against Florida Gulf Coast University where 1,000 fans watched the teams skate to a 3-3 tie. “There was a lot of energy [and] whenever you can get that, it’s good,” Kyrokostas says.

Says goalie Cory Mullane, “The coach is a good guy. He has a lot of experience, so I listen.”

That’s quite a turnaround for the 3-year-old club, who just last year had a tough time even getting together for practice.

Center Mustafa Malik says that they would get calls at nine o’clock at night to go to practice or games at the last minute. “I didn’t like the coaching last year. It was unorganized and unprofessional.”

With Lavender’s organization of the schedule and Kyrkostas’ work ethic, the Owls are now a different team. Kyrkostas says they’re ahead of his five-year plan: “There is a lot of talent down here. The kids just need good coaching.” His goal this year is to go to Pittsburgh and play in the ACHA Nationals tournament in March – although he also dreams of attaining Division 1 status.

The Owls would love to jump from a club to a full-fledged member of FAU’s Athletic Department, where they would receive not only official team status but also financial support and use of training facilities.

Left winger Daniel Sosa, a freshman, hopes he’ll be playing for an FAU team by the time he graduates. “I think it will happen,” says the team’s leading scorer. He dislikes the “club” status: “People don’t recognize us as a team, we can’t even use the facilities of athletic sports and it sucks.”

For left winger Josh Campanelli, however, club status is just fine. “There’s no real difference to me except for the money you get from the university,” he says, adding that he doesn’t need someone else telling them they’re a team. “Ask any of these guys – we’re a team.”

Coach Kyrkostas is also telling his players to get the club thinking out of their heads. “People see us as a club, but we don’t think of ourselves that way,” he says. “I run the team like it’s Division 1. I’m running it like the Florida Panthers.”

But practices cost money, which the team needs.

FAU’s Athletic Department could help the team out, but it doesn’t have the money, either. “I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t but honestly we don’t have the money,” Melissa Dawson, associate athletics director says.

Before he ran up his card, Lavender went to the only other place he could to get money: Student Government.

The team that’s not a team asked for $60000. It got $15000. After buying ice time and jerseys, and paying referees and linemen, the money ran out quickly, Lavender admits – even after the team raised $9000 on its own over the summer, selling t-shirts, charging admission to non-FAU fans and holding raffles during the second intermission of games.

The problem may be that the hockey club is just too big for SG to handle. The most SG doled out to clubs this year was $35000 to Konbit Kreyol, a Haitian student organization with 800 members – the hockey club has only 17 players.

Lavender believes money isn’t the only issue depriving his club from becoming a team. He thinks the issue is Title 9, the federal law requiring gender equity in college sports programs. But Dawson disagrees.

“We can’t compete at Division 1 level with the teams we have now, and to add another team at this point would dilute other programs. It’s a main reason why we didn’t add water polo this year,” Dawson says. The No. 1. barrier to inclusion into their program is a lack of funds, not gender equity, she says.

Furthermore, Dawson says the Title 9 difficulties could be resolved simply. All FAU would have to do is conduct a survey to see if the 59 percent of females on campus feel their sports participation needs are being accommodated. Then they’d have to do another survey to discover if hockey was the sport FAU students really want to see represented. Who knows if hockey is that sport? Dawson isn’t sure. She says hockey would have fierce competition with men’s track and field.

One person who is sure hockey is the right addition is Coach Kyrokostas. He even says an official hockey team could bring FAU’s first national title.

“To be honest with you, I’ve talked to all these NCAA coaches up north, and they say it would be the easiest sell to the best players if they were offered scholarships to come down here,” he says. Everyone wants to come to sunny Florida and play all year long, he adds.

“I think that’s a pretty bold statement,” Dawson says. First of all, even if they could get the scholarships, the team would have to play at Division 1 level – quite a step up from what they’re playing now.

Although Dawson is proud of the hockey club’s accomplishments, she recognizes the roadblocks they must overcome to achieve team status, “I feel for them, it’s a difficult situation.”

Dawson also tries to help Lavender’s fundraising efforts whenever she can. Like hiring his players as ticket-takers for two football games. While she does what she can for them, Lavender may just have to pull off some fundraising tricks of his own.

At the moment, Lavender is asking SG for more money. He hopes he’ll get it. If he doesn’t, and if they don’t raise enough over the summer, the players might have to fork over some more cash so the team can continue playing. They’ve already contributed $580 per player this year, which is better than the $2000 each player put in last year.

Still, Lavender isn’t worried about paying off his credit card. “Last year, we were only ranked ninth, and now we’re going to nationals,” he says of the ACHA playoffs in March. “Sure, we planned an expensive schedule but it is all worth it.”

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