The hockey culture at CSU is lacking — here’s why

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Collegian | Avery Coates

Forward Alex Latkovski (19) shoots the puck at the Bears’ goal Oct. 7. Colorado State University scored a total of six goals beating MSU by two points.

Emma Askren, Staff Reporter

This past year, the colorful state of Colorado has become well known for its hockey. With the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup and the University of Denver winning the NCAA championship this past season, Colorado has certainly become what one could call a hockey state.

However, this popularity hasn’t caught on at Colorado State University. CSU has three hockey teams: A Division I and II men’s club team, as well as a Division I women’s club team. Despite the variety and success of the teams, average attendance this year hasn’t maxed out the venues by any means.

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“Right on the board we have, you know, going to the national tournament in Boston come spring break. … We’re super dedicated, and I think that that can help us actually in the long run become, like, a viable and long-lasting program that hopefully goes (NCAA) DI.” –Nicholas Baltas, senior forward for CSU’s DI club men’s hockey team

People can be seen around campus sporting Colorado Avalanche jerseys and T-shirts. Yet very little CSU hockey merchandise can be found. Why is this? Very few people are even aware that CSU has hockey teams.

Colorado State forward Jackson Birdsall faces off against Missouri State forward Jared Bratton Oct. 7.
Colorado State forward Jackson Birdsall faces off against Missouri State forward Jared Bratton Oct. 7. The Rams won 6-4 against the visiting Bears. (Collegian | Gregory James)

Nicholas Baltas, a senior on the DI men’s team, said CSU hockey is “a really good kept secret.”

“We get a steady group of fans that are pretty passionate, … but you know, around campus you don’t see too much of CSU hockey because it’s like a club,” Baltas said.

CSU hockey is a club sport that doesn’t receive NCAA funding like NCAA-sanctioned sports on campus do. This means the players on the team dedicate their own time and money to play a sport they love.

“A lot of CSU hockey is perseverance, honesty and having fun on the ice,” said Trent Cowden, team captain and president of CSU hockey. 

Defensemen Justin Vickers (9) gains speed as he comes around his teams goal
Defensemen Justin Vickers (9) gains speed as he comes around his team’s goal Oct. 7. Missouri State University fell to Colorado State University 6-4. (Collegian | Avery Coates)

It can be difficult to balance college life while playing a sport, and it’s even more difficult when players put their own time and money in the game too. Club sports aren’t well recognized with CSU itself, which is why athletes have to pay dues to the team. Despite these challenges, the players have the national club tournament in mind.

“Right on the board we have, you know, going to the national tournament in Boston come spring break,” Baltas said. “We’re super dedicated, and I think that that can help us actually in the long run become, like, a viable and long-lasting program that hopefully goes (NCAA) DI.”

Despite the lack of recognition that CSU hockey receives, they are a top-tier club program, garnering two wins back-to-back against Missouri State University to improve to 4-2 on the season. The team plays around 30 games per season, proving their dedication to the sport they love so much.

In terms of the attendance at games, it’s difficult to get fans to come. CSU rents space from Edora Pool Ice Center to practice and compete. The rink is off campus, which can discourage some fans who may not have a car from attending the games.

“With our case, it’s a little more planned,” Baltas said. “Our rink is just a short drive — just about seven, eight minutes off campus — but it makes it so, like, you actually have to plan it.” 

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Cowden said the lack of an on campus rink, poor acknowledgment from CSU Athletics and minimal advertisement are the main reasons that CSU hockey is struggling to be recognized.

“We’re in the rebuilding stage,” Cowden said. “COVID put a dent in our attendance, and we’re looking to rebuild back to our previous numbers.”

In past years, they’ve sold over 2,000 tickets per game, meaning they’ve oversold EPIC. 

In October, CSU hockey hosts a Greek night wherein university sororities and fraternities are invited to come watch a game. They’ve also started incorporating more themed games to encourage attendance.

CSU hockey is looking to increase their attendance and gain more local recognition. This way, they can begin to utilize name, image and likeness deals from local companies.

“We almost have a chip on our shoulder, or we got a little hood up like we’re just trying to prove ourselves, and then one day we’re going to be this great shining star of a program,” Baltas said.

CSU hockey will continue to play at Edora Pool Ice Center, with their next home game taking place at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at EPIC.

Reach Emma Askren at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @emma_askren.