Athletics to Introduce Hockey Team Next Year


The model for the dome for the new ice hockey rink in McGheean Field on Misericordia’s campus. The rink comes to campus thanks to the addition of the new men’s ice hockey team. Photo edited by Michael Conway

Matthew McWrestleball, Also likes sports

The Misericordia Cougars are officially ready to hit the ice next year.

Starting in the 2021-22 season, athletics will add men’s ice hockey to its list of 25 varsity sports, according to athletic director Chuck Edkins, who announced the news on Wednesday at the Anderson Center. He said the new team will join the Middle Atlantic Conference Ice Hockey League.

Edkins explained the idea developed last year when school officials visited a hockey game between King’s College and Wilkes University. The idea quickly became a reality for local collegiate hockey players in Dallas when the school’s trustees met numerous times to discuss the implementation of an ice hockey team.

Edkins said the major deciding factor was the love of competition.

“For us, we know how competitive we can be and we know how competitive this sport is,” Edkins said. “We’re looking for a sport where we can bring in solid recruits and be extremely competitive. We know this area and the New Jersey area is known for hockey. It’s an exciting add. It’s an awesome sport to watch, and our college community will be extremely excited about it.”

The Cougars also announced that Wayne Gretzky, NHL Hall of Famer, will be the inaugural head coach of the new team.

Gretzky has experience as a former professional ice hockey player and former head coach, having played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999.

Nicknamed “The Great One,” Gretzky has been called “the greatest hockey player ever” by many sportswriters, players and the NHL itself. He is the leading scorer in NHL history with more goals and assists than any other player. He has more assists than any other player and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season, a feat he accomplished four times.

Gretzky also tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his playing retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records and 6 All-Star records.

“I’m looking forward to the recruiting,” Gretzky said. “When I was coaching in the NHL, I didn’t have to recruit at all. Players were just given to me and I had to hope they were good enough to understand my philosophy. Here, I’ve got to sell the Cougar hockey program and myself, which I’m looking forward to. I love doing things like that.”

Gretzky plans to recruit the developing hockey hotbeds in New Jersey and Philadelphia, expanding into Harrisburg and points south, like York. He also plans to try his best to recruit hockey players in Canada, those who have looked up to Gretzky their entire lives.

“I also plan to recruit in this area, but you’ve got to get outside this area and offer opportunities for kids to come into this area and see what Misericordia and the Back Mountain offer,” he said. “Hockey here has grown in leaps and bounds since I’ve been involved in it. I can see 75 to 100 kids looking at Misericordia over the course of the next two years, looking at Misericordia and playing here if I think they’re good enough for our style of hockey.”

The Mis hockey team will certainly start to a “fire” start next season.
Photo by: macrovector

Misericordia will play its home games in a domed McGheean Field on campus. According to Edkins, the plan is to put a dome over the field for the winter months so Cougars ice hockey will have a home during its playing season.

The Misericordia Athletics Department is aware this will impact other sports, but the plan is to heavily invest in the ice hockey program.

The next step toward putting the Cougars on ice is recruiting, part of the reason Wednesday’s announcement came so far ahead of the November 2021 season start date, when the inaugural season will kick off.

Neither Gretzky nor Edkins will take any questions at the time about the men’s ice hockey program at Misericordia, as they both said the decision is final and nothing can change their minds or deter them from moving forward.