The St. John’s Ice Hockey Team: Frozen in Time

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The St. John’s Ice Hockey Team: Frozen in Time

The St. John's Ice Hockey team achieved varsity status in 1980.

The St. John's Ice Hockey team achieved varsity status in 1980.

PHOTO COURTESY/ ST.JOHNS ARCHIVES

The St. John's Ice Hockey team achieved varsity status in 1980.

PHOTO COURTESY/ ST.JOHNS ARCHIVES

PHOTO COURTESY/ ST.JOHNS ARCHIVES

The St. John's Ice Hockey team achieved varsity status in 1980.

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The abrupt end of the St. John’s ice hockey team does not come to mind when talking about the university’s sports. The school is not known for hockey because it currently has no team.  

They did have one years ago. From its humble intermittent beginnings in the late 20s to achieving varsity status in 1980. The hockey team had much to be proud of until its end in the 1992 season. Then the team was frozen in time, never progressing like the other sports.

Jim Muessig, a St. John’s alum, was named team captain at the end of his junior year. He could not wait to lead the squad in the Fall ’92 season as a senior, before he heard the bad news.

“The disbanding was terrible,” Muessig recalled. “We were all excited for a good year.”

The team was informed about their break up over the summer as letters were sent out to each player. 

“I can’t even recall how they told us but it was handled poorly by the school. They never spoke to us directly,” said Muessig.“We were told that it was for lack of funding but also that title 9 played a role. I believe they added women’s volleyball shortly after.” 

Efforts by the Torch to find the school’s stated reason were not successful.

If losing the squad was not bad enough for these players, then realizing that the school added another team was salt in the wound. 

While the disbandment killed the players’ spirits, Muessig never forgot what it was like to be a part of the St. John’s hockey team.

“It was great. For just about everybody, it was the first time playing on a team and not having to shell out all sorts of money to play.” 

Not spending a ton of money is a college student’s dream, even 25 years ago. Add that dream to joy of playing for and representing the school, and that is what the magic of the St. John’s hockey team was like. 

“We practiced 5 days a week and had all the gear provided- except skates and sticks. The rink was far from campus but that didn’t change a thing,” Muessig added. 

Some people who were part of that good company included Buzz Deschamps and Keith McAdams. Deschamps was the head coach while McAdams was the assistant coach.

“Buzz is a hockey legend on Long Island. The man has tons of stories,” said Muessig.

After all, Deschamps was drafted by the New York Rangers in the mid 50s. He was also awarded the Peconic Hockey Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, which definitely qualifies him to be a hockey legend on the island. 

“From what I remember, he relied on the assistant coaches to run practices. They brought in Keith McAdams as an assistant for my Junior year and I learned more from him than any coach I ever played for. Buzzy ran the forwards and I played defense,” Muessig noted.

“Otherwise, the man can toss a garbage can in the locker room if he didn’t like what he was seeing from you.” 

Deschamps is part of the St. John’s legacy. Even though the team is nonexistent, it still leaves a mark in the school’s athletic history.

The team’s legacy is so underrated that many students do not know much about it. Some students know the university had a team, but that is it. No one seems to know much about its past.

Anthony Williams, a 20-year-old junior St John’s student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania does not know how or why the team disbanded, but he does think the university should have a hockey team.

“New York is a prime place for collegiate hockey. Just like Boston and Connecticut, St. John’s should have a team.” 

Williams is not the only student who is concerned with the possibility of hockey in the school.

“If it is plausible, then maybe,” says Justin Burdick, a 20-year-old junior from Albany, New York. 

Burdick is one of the managers for the St. John’s women’s basketball team, and the thought of hockey representing the school, just like his basketball team, has crossed his mind a few times. 

Burdick also mentioned that “you would have to compete with St. John’s basketball over the winter.”

Kevin Byrnes, a 21-year-old junior from East Rockaway, New York, says that a hockey team reassembling under current NCAA rules, “is virtually impossible because of the scholarships you need to have.” 

“[The team] would start out as a club and then make its way to varsity all over again,” Byrnes said.

Even if the school may never get a hockey team, looking back on history is special, especially around the mid 70s.

The St. John’s hockey team got re-funded in 1975 after its disbandment two years prior.

Jim Garvey was the head coach of that time, and he wrote reflections praising the team and its players. One of the players was Glenn Newsome, who stood out to form the nucleus of the team, according to Garvey. 

Newsome was happy to be a part of a reemerging team.

“My sophomore, junior, and senior year we played schools like Fordham and Stony Brook, all local teams. It wasn’t like the college hockey you see today. We had some good years,” he said.

“We played games where the Rangers used to practice. We played 18 regular season games and then a few playoff games. Then we lost 2-1 in the final.”

Newsome became captain in his senior year.

“My friend and teammate Jim Arsenault, we called him boomer because of his slap shot, we went to grammar school together. And I actually saw him last week.” 

The fact that players like Newsome and Arsenault have seen each other over the years, proves that the history is alive and well between them. 

While the team may be frozen in time, the alumni and coaches that were part of it are certainly not. It does not matter if a new hockey team emerges in the future, because the legacy of the past St. John’s ice hockey team will live on forever.

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