By Dave Caspole ’94
Devoted alumni of the Westfield State ice hockey team, who played a key role in returning the program to varsity status for the 2008–09 season, are spearheading a fundraising campaign to build a team locker room at Amelia Park Arena in Westfield.
The campaign has a target of $75,000 to $100,000, which will fully outfit the locker room and provide a balance of funds for the program’s continual support.
“This is for everybody to feel like they’re a part of Westfield State hockey moving forward,” said Peter Laviolette ’86, in his video message to fellow alumni that introduced the fundraising campaign last fall. “We welcome all the younger players into the Blueliners club as well.”
The locker room “will benefit each team, each player moving forward. It’s really a sense of identity for a team… the people you remember most are your teammates and the guys inside that locker room,” said Laviolette, head coach of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
Owls’ hockey has had several generations, beginning in the 1970s, transitioning through a club sport phase that reignited in the late 1990s and the current varsity program, which returned to the ice in 2008.
“The friendships you make, the guys you remember—it’s fun to reminisce,” said Tom Rodger ’76, who, as an undergraduate, spearheaded the first varsity team’s formation. “We had the old helmets, the old skates … it was fun … I experienced the thrill of a lifetime.”
The locker room effort has sparked enthusiasm among Owls alumni, who gather for occasional reunions and alumni games. The 1978 team was recognized a couple years ago on the ice with a reunion event, and will be honored as a “Team of Distinction” by the Westfield State Athletic Hall of Fame at the next induction ceremony.
For the Lincoln family, “Brian, Dad, and I just sat down and discussed what we would do,” said Don Lincoln ’87, about their gift to support the locker room construction. “We know we are supporting a great cause. We hope those players who follow, as well as their families, enjoy their Westfield State hockey experiences and will provide support to those who follow them as well.”
“I have a tremendous amount of pride (in Westfield State hockey),” said Ralph Studley ’00, who ignited the restart of hockey as a student, rebuilding the club program which later re-transitioned to varsity status. “It was exciting to be part of something we accomplished through the work of a lot of people.”
“This has been the missing piece for our program,”said Owls’ Athletics Director Dick Lenfest. “We’ve recruited regionally, nationally, and even internationally, but having the dedicated locker room for our team will provide a home away from home for our players and help showcase our program.”
Plans call for the bulk of the construction to be completed this summer, with professional-style locker stalls for each player, video equipment for team instruction, and additional storage for the team—all of which will make the room competitive with other Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference facilities.