NIU hockey seeks to host more alum events


Courtesy of NIU hockey

NIU hockey players salute the crowd during alumni night on Jan. 27. (Photo courtesy of NIU hockey)

By Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Editor

DeKALB – It was a night for recognition and memories in West Dundee when NIU hockey held an alumni night in its matchup with Drury University on Jan. 27 to honor former players and coaches.

The hockey club is the oldest active club at NIU, being founded in 1965. With 58 years of history, the alumni that returned had a chance to see old friends and meet new faces – from as far as the 1977 graduating class. 

Head coach Brad Stoffers said the night was a perfect opportunity to treat the club’s former players and mix them in with the current team. 

“There’s about (14) … alumni that came to the game,” Stoffers said. “Pregame dinner, some reminiscing, some time to meet a few of our captains and senior players who will be alumni in a few months … So, it was a really fun night.” 

Bryan Peterson, who graduated from NIU in 2017, said attending his former team’s game and reuniting with his old teammates was a surreal experience. 

“Saw a lot of old friends – couple friends have babies now,” Peterson said. “So, that was really cool to see.” 

The team rolled out the red carpet before its Jan. 27 game against Drury to recognize all 14 alumni who attended. The alumni stood on the ice with the starting lineup during the national anthem. Peterson was among those that had the opportunity to be recognized. 

“As soon as I touched the ice, my knees hurt again,” Peterson said with a laugh. “It was nice to be, kind of, brought out and kind of showed a little love again.”

The current team has struggled this season, but their record doesn’t hinder optimism from those on the outside looking in. In Peterson’s eyes, major steps have already been taken to get his old team back into contention. 

“I know they’re struggling a little bit this year, but, you know, they’re all young,” Peterson said. “They got a ways to go. It’s cool to see that it’s still going, cool to see that they jumped up a whole level – we only played D (division) two. So, it’s good to see them, like, growing it.” 

As for the future of alumni involvement, the program expects to expand its alumni celebration into more events than just one night every year. 

Stoffers said he sees limitless potential in the coming years to keep the 58-year-old program’s alumni actively involved. 

“Hopefully, it’ll include an alumni game where the guys can actually get out and skate against each other, have some fun,” Stoffers said. “Turn the small event that we had this year into a much bigger, maybe a full weekend … potentially, we’re looking at maybe a golf outing in the summer as a means to raise some funds and do some things.” 

Holding an alumni night is one of many steps NIU hockey is taking in an attempt to get the program off the ground. This being his first season trying to rebuild the program, Stoffers said keeping the alumni involved is crucial to the reputation he’s trying to build for NIU hockey. 

“They were the foundation of the program, you know? We wouldn’t be here without their success,” Stoffers said. “The guys that came before and helped build this thing and we’re just out here trying to make them proud. But yeah, I mean, it’s a huge part of the program and (we) definitely want to keep them involved.” 

With the Huskies looking to make their past players proud, Peterson said he likes the direction Stoffers is steering his former club and is looking forward to the future. 

“All the other guys playing all seem like … they’re very bonded together. So, it seems like he (Stoffers) did a very good job keeping everybody in good spirits, you know, in spite of the tough year,” Peterson said. “So, I’m excited to see – as they kind of grow a little bit and get used to the D1 level – also what kind of talent he can bring in. So, it’s exciting to see.” 

The Huskies’ next matchup will be on the road to take on the Waldorf University Warriors at 7 p.m. Friday in Albert Lea, Minnesota.