On Thin Ice? A spotlight on SLU club hockey


Over two decades after SLU ice hockey was moved from a varsity sport to a club team, they are still going strong and continue to put together successful seasons. The club gives hockey players the opportunity to still play at a high level while attending SLU. Photo Courtesy of SLU Billikens Ice Hockey.

It is no secret that St. Louisans are huge hockey (Blues) fans. In a city where folks “bleed blue” hockey is ingrained in the culture. So then where is the collegiate hockey?

There is actually a lot of college hockey in the St. Louis area, just not at the NCAA D1 level.

In the 1970s SLU had a D1 team. The team had an arrangement with the Blues so they could host games at the St. Louis Arena (which has since been demolished), making them a shining star for college hockey in the Midwest. But in 1977, Blues ownership changed and with the change came a renegotiation of SLU’s ice use. SLU ultimately had to choose between ice hockey and basketball funding, and with that decision ice hockey was relegated to a club sport.

Thirty years later, the Saint Louis University club hockey team still provides a competitive atmosphere for college students to continue their education and play a sport they love.

The Billikens compete in the Mid American Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) against other Midwestern opponents. The 2018-2019 season ended slightly below par with a record of 7-14-0-1 and no playoff run. Though the Bills ended the season sooner than they had hoped, it is by no means indicative of future and past success. With regular playoff runs the Bills look to come back stronger in the next season.

But getting together a strong team can be slightly more challenging for a club team. For a lot of NCAA athletes, the students make the decision to continue their athletic career and see what the best school for them is. With a club sport like hockey, the process is switched. Head coach Sean Fitzpatrick finds students interested or committed to SLU with a hockey background and tries to get them interested in continuing hockey at SLU.

For SLU hockey, this recruitment process starts young. The team holds youth camps over the summer, as well as practices with local youth teams and coaching young players. SLU’s image as part of the St. Louis community as well as a Jesuit schools helps to recruit strong local students and other Jesuit students.

For senior Carter Alcock this type of recruitment is something unique to the club program. “I think that’s kinda what makes it fun,” he said. “You kinda get whatever shows up, you put it together, you put a team on the ice, and hopefully it goes well.”

As a club team, SLU hockey is a student organization and gets its funding from the rec as opposed to the athletics department. This creates a challenging financial situation, but also gives the team another unique structural piece.

Student organizations at SLU have executive boards and two years ago the hockey team made the decision to establish a player-run e-board. They shifted responsibilities from their head coach to the players. This makes the team as a whole responsible for all their actions. “It definitely makes you more invested in the team,” said Alcock.

The three days of practice a week culminate in the weekend where the Bills play on Fridays and Saturdays. The Bills play home games at Webster Groves Ice Arena and a have a few fun promotions that could convince any student on the fence about going to a game. It is a free hockey game and a sponsorship with Narwhal’s Crafted gets you a free drink for going to a game. The “Chuck a Puck” promotion gives fans the opportunity to throw a puck on the ice to win a raffle and support the team.

At the end of the game, if things go well, Bills and fans exit the stands with LunchMoney Lewis’ “Bills” playing and smiles on their faces.