Face off

Hockey is a sport that some people watch hoping for the gloves to come off and a fight to follow, but it’s far more than that. It’s entertaining, intense, fast, adrenaline-pumping and requires precision.

If these adjectives describe you or sounds like something you’d be interested in seeing, then the Northern Kentucky Hockey Club is worth a look.

“We held our tryouts during the first week of school; however we can pick up players for the spring semester in January,” said Don McIntosh, director of Operations.

The current club team is a tight group. They have had the same core group of players for the past four years and have become good friends. Whenever the club goes on the road, they do things outside of the game as a team.

“Some guys have frats, but I think we are a closer group than those guys,” said co-captain Jeremy Emig.

This year the club is in a bit of a rebuilding phase. Former head coach Karl Mueller took a new job in Canada and was replaced by Eric Kathman, who brought with him new assistant coach Alex Tischner and equipment manager Matthew Valentour. Despite all the coaching changes, McIntosh is optimistic about this season.

“With captain Nick Williams and alternate captains Kyle Delvin and Jeremy Emig, we’ve added several new and exciting key players, so our future looks really good,” McIntosh said.

NKU Hockey Club competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Division III North Region. Local rivals University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, University of Louisville, Indiana University and Eastern Kentucky University club teams are all scheduled for this season. The farthest the club will travel this season is Decatur, Ala., to play the club team from Mississippi State.

“We mostly play regional teams as it’s difficult to raise the funds for long-distance road games,” McIntosh said.

Because NKU is a club hockey team, they don’t receive direct funding from the school’s athletic department. NKU’s Albright Health and Recreation Center provides a little funding for the club, but players must mostly fend for themselves when it comes to funding. Generally players will pay around $800 for a full season.

This year the club is planning a few promotions, such as a canned food drive — where a fan can get discounted admission by bringing a canned food item — and youth hockey night — free admission for players in a youth hockey league for ages 18 and under only.

Club games average between 150 and 250 fans per game, whereas rivalry games, such as when they play UC, Xavier or EKU, usually draw 350-400 fans.

“Fans do a great job of being loud and getting into the other team’s head,” Emig said. “It makes it really fun to play.”

Current NKU student Bethany Porter used to blog about the NKU hockey club, but she still has a passion for hockey and the closeness of the players and fans.

“I love how the players on a team are like a family and will always stand up for another,” Porter said. “I really did enjoy the way the fans cheered and were a really tight unit.”

The Hockey Club kicked off their season with two games against EKU on Sept. 10 and 11. The first game held at Northern Kentucky Ice Center resulted in a loss for NKU with a score of 9-2. The next night they rebounded by beating EKU in Lexington, Ky., by a score of 9-4.

The club can have as many players on the team as it chooses, but for games it can only roster 18 players and two goalies. Spring semester tryouts will be held on the first Tuesday in January.

To be eligible to play in games a student must be in good academic standing (2.0 GPA or higher) and take and pass at least nine credit hours per semester. However, any student, faculty or staff member is eligible to join the club for practice. Practices and home games are held at Northern Kentucky Ice Center in Crescent Springs, Ky. Practices are on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.

Story by Derick Bischoff