Five years ago, playing for the ASU hockey team was not what it is today.
“My freshman year with ASU hockey consisted of long bus trips, cheap dinners on the road, freezing cold morning skates, a small fan base and a mediocre team performance on the ice,” ASU hockey alumnus Danny McAuliffe said.
Now fast-forwarding to today, the move up to NCAA Division I made alumni realize just how proud they are to have been a part of the movement. Head coach Greg Powers sold them on his vision of where he wanted the team to be, and that vision came true on Tuesday.
“His [Powers’] vision was to make ASU into an elite ACHA team and obviously he succeeded at that,” former forward Colin Hekle said. “To be a three year captain of the team was one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot even begin to describe how proud I am to have had a part in such an amazing transition of the program.”
Hekle proved that ASU hockey recruits high caliber talent, finishing his 139 collegiate games with 88 goals and 92 assists. He now plays for the Huntsville Havoc in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Powers is in his fifth year as Arizona State’s head coach and eighth overall year coaching the program, making this group of veterans his first ever full recruiting class. This group of alumni appreciates all of Powers’ work on and off the ice.
The gratitude does not stop there, however for the veterans. McAuliffe, Hekle, and Troy Scott recognize the many hands that were involved in the transition.
“The first key people that caused this move were Powers and Ken Lind, those guys created a lot of these possibilities and have been there since the original discussions,” Scott said. “The donors are huge as well and I would love to thank them so much and for the contributions they provided for our team. They are about to change a lot of people’s lives, not just the hockey players, but another female NCAA team and the community of Sun Devil athletics.”
One thing that is also impacted by the change is the hockey community in Arizona. As a local athlete, McAuliffe remembers what it was like growing up in skates.
“The goal was to always leave home and play for a big time school in the east,” McAuliffe said. “Having a NCAA Division I team here in the valley now gives kids growing up in Arizona something to strive for.”
McAuliffe did travel east to play for the Walpole Express in Massachusetts, but even he ended up back home for college. The Phoenix native now believes the move could encourage other west coast teams to do the same.
ASU hockey made progress throughout the years to become NCAA, but for Scott, the team’s culture has remained the same.
“Powers has established such a great foundation that is hardworking, focused, yet fun atmosphere that makes players want to build a program here. I believe ASU has pushed the edge and changed the landscape for college and U.S. hockey,” Scott said.
He also added that people may be shocked by the announcement, but they will be more amazed with the success going forward.
You can reach Allyson Cummings on Twitter @_ACummings or via email at email@example.com