A midst the infectious excitement that engulfs Tucson throughout Arizona football and basketball seasons, it is easy to forget about Wildcast Hockey. The sport is not in our desert dwelling culture. Most of us did not grow up in the snow, do not understand the low scoring games, and do not identify with the hockey player ethos. The Arizona Wildcat hockey team, however, is happy to show us why our way of thinking is wrong.
Though the hockey program was founded in 1979 under the moniker “The Icecats”, the University did not officially recognize the team until 2011. Now, with new direction and leadership, the hockey team is permitted to wear the Arizona “A” on their jerseys as official members of the Arizona athletic family.
The Wildcats play their home games at the TCC on Fridays and Saturday nights. Though the arena seats a little over 6,000 people and is considered dated in comparison to other college hockey venues, the fans that attend the games are as lively and deafening as the team needs them to be. The vivacious, sometimes rowdy group of attendees have earned the nickname “The Madhouse of Mainstreet” for the TCC, which is fitting due to the fact that Arizona hockey games are the only campus affiliated events that serve alcohol.
The die-hard fan base is not the only thing that makes the hockey program special, the Wildcat team is also a hard working, and enormously talented group of players led by senior forwards Andrew Murmes and Ansel Ivers-Anderson. This season, under head coach Sean Hogan, the Cats have climbed as high as 11th on the national rankings, which is their highest ranking in seven years. The squad has also tallied up some exciting wins, the most notable being a sweep of 3rd ranked Oklahoma.
Despite the upsides of a high ranking and possibly the biggest upset in program history, it has not all been smooth skating for Arizona. The Wildcat squad has been battling adversity all season. The team has endured sicknesses, four-week road trips, scheduling conflicts with the TCC that force them to travel to Chandler for practices, and worst yet, a 34-game losing streak to rival ASU. That was no typo, 34 straight losses to the Sun Devils. Much to the dismay of the players, coaches, and the community, Arizona has not beaten Arizona State in a hockey game since February of 2009. One of the top teams in the west this season, the Sun Devils dismantled the Wildcats by a score of 11-1 in their last two meetings.
ASU losses aside, the Arizona hockey club is on the upswing given their recently revamped look and direction. True, the team does not share the rich and successful history of basketball and football, but the boisterous energy of Wildcat hockey is worth the trip to the “Madhouse”. The team is carving a new identity into the ice, one that has claimed a sense of belonging among more prominent and recognizable U of A sports, and will hopefully instill the same long lasting legacy that Arizona has grown accustomed to after generations of accomplishments.