Local youth hockey coach Bob St. Louis saw players from Bakersfield, that wanted to stay home, going elsewhere for college because collegiate hockey was not available at Cal State Bakersfield. Then his own son — now 20 and attending CSUB — faced the same dilemma.
“I just started thinking, ‘Well, man, why can’t we do it here?’” St. Louis said.
He looked around at the hockey community in Bakersfield — the AHL-level Condors, the Kern County Hockey Club, which services players under 18, and the Kern County Knights, a team in the Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey League — and decided a team at CSUB would be a natural progression.
Starting in the 2018 fall semester, CSUB will have its first ice hockey team. The team will participate at the club level in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. It is not a Division I sport and is run through the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership rather than the athletic department.
“Super excitement by the people in the (Bakersfield) hockey world,” St. Louis said, “especially the (Condors) alumni.”
ACHA Men’s Division 2 vice president Paul Lowden did not respond to a request for comment.
At its core, creating a new club sport at CSUB is fairly simple.
“Any student can create any club possible, any sport that you can compete in with other schools,” said CSUB competitive sports coordinator Kareem Bland. They just need five full-time students (undergraduate or graduate), a president and vice president, and a club constitution.
Ice hockey will be the fourth active club sport at CSUB, joining men’s soccer, women’s soccer and men’s basketball. Women’s basketball is forming and a Quidditch club, referencing the sport played in the “Harry Potter” series.
The hockey team doesn’t have a schedule yet, but St. Louis is eyeing a potential game against Fresno State or UC Santa Barbara at Rabobank Arena — where the Condors play — in September as the team’s home opener.
Rabobank Arena has given the team a favorable deal, St. Louis said, and it’ll only take about 250 attendees to break even. He wants to play as many games as possible at Rabobank Arena and the rest will be at the Valley Children’s Ice Center of Bakersfield.
The team will play most of its home games on Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons, St. Louis thinks, with a rare Friday night contest. Because of the likely favorable ice availability compared to other teams, St. Louis hopes most of the team’s games will be at home this season.
“We’re gonna try to keep as many games (at home as possible),” St. Louis said. “We have kind of prime ice time “
Practices will be at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, starting in July. Tryouts will be in August. St. Louis wants 15 skaters and two goalies, but he’ll be happy with whatever he gets.
St. Louis hasn’t worked it all out, but the group thinks the first season will cost $50,000 to $60,000. Players will have to pay about $2,500 to $2,600. St. Louis and his assistant coach, Richard Wilson, are volunteers. The team has secured its first donation of $15,000, St. Louis said.
Plenty of people associated with the Condors have offered their assistance in various ways, including assistant coach J-F Houle, head equipment manager Al Oman, strength and conditioning coach Patrick Love and several former players that stayed in town.
“We’re a club team now, but who knows what can happen in four or five years,” St. Louis said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”