Following a column I wrote on the NHL lockout, Georgetown’s club hockey coach, John Kokikdo, wrote me an e-mail inviting me out to watch his team. Considering that column appeared in October and it is now February, it seems that I hesitated a bit in accepting his invitation.

See, Georgetown is a tricky school when it comes to sports. In my two years on the Hilltop I have learned that unless the team is absolutely stellar or attending the game requires little to no effort, chances are slim to none that students will attend in bulk. And these are varsity, NCAA sports, so I doubted club sports got any sort of attendance. I almost pitied them.

As a woman of my word, I decided to attend last Saturday’s hockey game against Maryland. I’m not going to lie – I was not excited in the least bit to watch a club game and practically had to drag my sober self down to the Southwest Quad to board school buses with 100 drunken students.

What I found, what I learned, in an ice rink in Rockville, Md., is something of great value.

Most NCAA athletes will not move on to the pros, so the pinnacle is here in college. Yet there is glory for the athletes in being televised, in national championships, in tournaments, in screaming crowds of alumni and students, in banners in gyms and highlights on ESPN.

For club athletes, there is none of this. And this is what is fabulous about club sports.

Sitting on a hard wooden bench alone next to the rink, I witnessed athletes playing a sport for pure, unadulterated love of the game.

So often in sports, especially in the pros, athletes lose touch with this and focus only on the endorsements and outlandish salaries. This happens, and sports become a job. Playing the game is going to work, only without the stuffy suit and briefcase and for a significantly larger pay check than most. The result can be a lackluster performance for fans.

Most athletes inevitably reach a point in their career when they realize the pros are out of their reach. For Joe Spitz (MSB ’05), one of three captains of the club hockey team, this realization came in high school. The NHL was an unreachable dream, and after all, a brain will take one much farther than sports.

The predicament boils down to two options: play Division III hockey somewhere, or join a club team and enjoy college as well.

A club team is, as many Georgetown club athletes have told me over the past week, a way to escape from the everyday life of classes, work and whatever drama which may ensue. Clubs present an outlet for athletes to express their competitive edge but without the same commitment level of an NCAA team. The teams spark camaraderie and become an incredibly memorable part of a person’s college experience. Mostly, people play because they love their sport and time is rapidly ticking away until, rumor has it, we have to enter the real world, where sports become mostly spectator.

Watching the club game was much different from most sporting events I’ve seen recently. Perhaps this is because the men are able to play free from great pressure. There are no scouts, no media and no front office to please. Playing in front of friends and family – one of my findings on the bus home – sport was at its purest.

The energy generated by Georgetown’s club hockey team was infectious. Georgetown’s students heckled Maryland’s team and cheered for scuffles, all in good fun. The level of skill was impressive for both teams. The student body stood for much of the second and third periods and reached quite a decibel when the game, tied at 3-3, went into overtime. Despite the game ending in a tie, students seemed unfazed and agreed that the game was entertaining. The good mood dampened only slightly when it was discovered that one of the bus drivers had been drinking the students’ keg and now had reached the legal intoxication level. That, however, is a whole other column.

While I hesitated to originally attend a club game, my expectations were more than reached. Athletes everywhere could learn something from this team, from all club teams. While professionals have large contracts to maintain and many NCAA athletes attempt to reach the professionals so that they can do the same, club athletes play simply to play. And that is a beautiful thing.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.