Since trading in their Rollerblades for ice skates and beginning to play competitively, the progress of SF State Ice Hockey has been spearheaded by its president and most senior member, Matthew Gold.
“I’ve been involved in about everything,” Gold said. “I’ve been closely involved in recruiting – I’ve been out in the quad tabling and answering emails from prospective players.”
Gold has been a member of the hockey club ever since it began facing off against other universities in 2013. When two former members signed the team up for competitive play, Gold said he was quick to join the crew.
“Gold’s a big guy, probably 6’5” and 200-plus pounds,” said team member Cory Bemis. “I remember my first practice I went to – the first time I ever played ice hockey – I tried to hit him. I just bounced off. I didn’t realize how solid he was.”
Before joining the ACHA – the governing body for more than 400 men’s and women’s college hockey teams in the U.S., according to their website – the hockey club participated in a men’s adult hockey league. In 2013, the team joined the PCHA and began its first year of play in a league that includes San Jose State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, Stanford University and University of California, Davis.
One of the club’s early struggles was a low volume of players, according to Gold. In 2013, the club only had 17 permanent players and averaged a turnout of 14 players a game.
“The first season we only had about 17,” Gold said. “Last season we had 18, but it was hard to get everyone out to a game consistently and sometimes we would take the ice with only 10 of us.”
Gold says with such low numbers, players had to conserve their energy during games, knowing they had no one to replace them. Instead of going full speed all game and taking substitutions when tired, players had to make sure they would last all game.
The club didn’t have a full-time coach in its first season and relied on player-coaches to lead the team, according to Gold.
“The first season, I helped coach during games,” Gold said. “Last season, we had two alumni come back and coach.”
Those two alumni coaches were Zack and Dakota Yackle, two brothers who volunteered to help a program they were once part of.
“We are a fairly new program, and we are still trying to get this off the ground,” Gold said. “The past two years were about understanding the league. This is the first year we’ve really made steps towards being a competitive program.”
Being the president of a club sport isn’t easy, according to Gold. He said he puts in about 10-15 hours a week, and that’s just for presidential duties. These responsibilities include setting up practices, getting ice time at skating rinks, recruiting players and promoting the team.
“It’s a fairly large workload,” Gold said. “But it’s all worth it, because we have a team here at State that plays college hockey.”
The team currently has 23 consistent players, including three goalies. Last year the Gators only had one goalie for the first half of the season.
“Matt has done a great job of running the team this year,” said Paul Klein, the club’s vice president. “He’s personally responsible for the new players we recruited.”
Gold says the increased number of players helps keep a full bench and lets the players skate their hardest without worrying about stamina.
“(The numbers) keep every position competitive and push us all to work our best to ensure our spot on the team,” Gold said.
The club also gained its first win this season against Stanford in a tight 7-5 match. The win was the club’s first since 2013 after a winless season in 2014.
Currently the team plays home games at Sharks Ice at the Oakland Ice Center. The club used to skate at the Cow Palace in Daly City before the arena’s ice surface was removed.