Slugs On Ice

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Illustration by Kaileen Smith
Illustration by Kaileen Smith

Growing up in Canada, sophomore Nicki Thompson’s life always involved hockey — until she came to UC Santa Cruz.

For the first year of her college experience, she wasn’t able to participate in the sport she played since she could walk because there wasn’t a team. Thompson wanted to help create UCSC’s hockey identity, but the idea seemed far-fetched.

Dakota Yackel also shares a similar passion for the sport and was disappointed to learn hockey wasn’t available after transferring to UCSC this fall. Yackel laced up his first pair of skates at age three, and sticks and pucks were a common commodity in his San Francisco home.

Together they decided to form their own hockey sports club — a space for players and fanatics to resume their participation in the sport.

“This club creates a place for students to come together and [share a] hobby,” said Yackel, who is now UCSC’s ice hockey club president. “Hockey at UCSC has a large following [but] the hardest part about starting this team is getting the word out that we have a hockey team here.”

The team currently awaits the club sports department’s decision to recognize hockey as an official sports club on campus. But competitive sports supervisor Kevin “Skippy” Givens said the lack of adequate on-campus facilities is a reason he’s been unable to accommodate the team’s request to become an official club.

Yackel remains hopeful that hockey will find a permanent home on campus, despite the team’s current hour-long commute to Nazareth Ice Oasis in Redwood City for practice and competitions.

“It’s definitely a tough situation being in a town without a rink,” said ice hockey vice president Thompson. “So far we’ve been able to share practices with SF State in Redwood City, set up unofficial sessions at Sharks Ice and play some friendly away games.”

The team’s main priority is to join the Pacific Coast of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) to participate in structured competitions. As of now, the newly-founded club competes in exhibition games, most recently losing to San Francisco State in a 6-2 friendly on Jan. 29.

“The team got tired by the end of the game,” Yackel said. “We played a strong first and second period as we went up 2-1, but then broke down in the third period and lost 6-2.”

The team is co-ed and open to anyone interested in hockey. Game day members are required to pay a $400 fee to help alleviate the team’s expenses for its ice rink rental, travel accommodations and hockey gear, while practice players pay $10 per practice session.

“This team wants to bring hockey players and fanatics together to play hockey, watch hockey and appreciate the sport,” Yackel said. “Any UCSC student is welcome to play, regardless of playing and skating experience.”

If any Slug is hesitant about making such a financial commitment to play, the team recommends attending one of its street hockey practices first to gain hands-on experience, free of charge. Street hockey practice occurs once a week, where the club’s 10 players develop fundamentals like passing and stick etiquette.

“[The club] is a great unifier for the assortment of hockey fans and players scattered through campus,” Thompson said. “The team is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which I never expected to do when I arrived.”

For more information on how to get involved, contact UCSC hockey via email at slugshockey@gmail.com and on its Facebook page “UCSC Hockey,” where the club posts weekly updates.