From The Daily Athenaeum
By Luke Blain
Four years ago, Wyatt Murphy was convinced his hockey career was over. In high school, he suffered an injury during his junior year and ended up missing his entire senior season.
Now, he’s a captain for the WVU Division I men’s hockey team.
“West Virginia hockey is one of those things people kind of find by accident,” Murphy said. “It’s one of those things where people don’t realize that hockey here is legit. It’s here to stay. It’s growing.”
The WVU hockey program is unlike any other sports program within the school. It’s defined as a club team and isn’t affiliated with the University.
The team is run through the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), which is separate from the NCAA. WVU’s team, however, still plays against NCAA teams.
The ACHA allows schools to have multiple teams. WVU has men’s teams in all three divisions as well as a Division II women’s team.
One major difference between the hockey program and other WVU sports is that the team is self-funded aside from a stipend from club sports. The team has to pay for ice rentals from the Morgantown ice arena — where they practice and play — equipment, hotels, referees and travel costs.
Each year, this costs players roughly $2,500.
The team is able to recruit but cannot offer scholarships. Some players, like Murphy, try out and make the team.
The team also operates much like a regular collegiate sport.
“We’re practicing three days a week. We’re working out twice a week,” WVU D-I hockey head coach Shane Buckley. “We’re doing video sessions and study halls. And so from that aspect, there are a lot of elements that would be similar to an NCAA hockey organization. The biggest difference that we have is that we’re not fully funded by the school.”
While the team can recruit, many may wonder how a program that players have to pay to be a part of appeals to players.
There are only 176 total men’s hockey programs in the country with 123 on the women’s side. The ACHA makes collegiate programs more available than the sparse selection in the NCAA.
While not an NCAA program, Murphy and Buckley have confidence in the future of the teams and hope to eventually become an NCAA program.
“I think we’d all be lying if I said we were completely satisfied with where we are right now,” Buckley said. “Obviously, the ultimate goal would be to have an NCAA hockey program at West Virginia. I think we’re a long ways off from that right now.”
“In the meantime, I think what’s most important for us is getting into the conversation of getting to national tournaments, competing for national championships.”
Even at their current level, Buckley said the team is having fun and is getting better each year.
“We’re really excited to keep growing as an organization, as a program,” Buckley said. “I know our guys are proud to represent WVU.”
(Originally published at https://www.thedaonline.com/sports/wvu_club_sports/how-wvu-club-hockey-competes-at-the-ncaa-level/article_7f3c7546-4437-11ed-b162-a34078e9dde6.html)