“I want to be what Georgetown can offer,” John Kokidko says. It’s the kind of idealistic phrase that belongs in a university brochure or the text prepared for tours. But Kokidko isn’t a highly prominent coach on campus, nor is he at the head of a team that receives national attention, like basketball or lacrosse. Instead, he’s a network engineer for University Information Services and the head coach of Georgetown’s club hockey team. But even if his team doesn’t inspire campus-wide excitement, the passion Kokidko brings to club hockey is no less authentic. “You see them build as people,” he explains of his athletes. The Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, Va., where the Hoyas have shared the rink with the NHL’s Washington Capitals this year, is a far cry from the Hoyas’ previous home, Cabin John Ice Rink in Rockville, Md. Cabin John was dark, dirty and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but the Iceplex is as state of the art as its name sounds – the walls and ice shine a blinding white. On the ice, president, scheduler, co-captain and winger Luke Holden (MSB ’07) takes the initiative, running practice, calling out drills and setting an example for his teammates to follow. The usual warm-ups, the ones that resemble an ice dancing routine, are followed by sprint drills. Meanwhile, Assistant Coach Brad Card laughs at another player who reversed when he wasn’t supposed to. “On the double whistle!” Card shouts as he skates with his players, knocking the puck against the wall during drills and chatting with George Livadas (COL ’04), an alum who has come back to help out the program. Livadas isn’t the only one who has returned to the ice. Card and two other players have made a hockey homecoming after taking a year or two off. According to their captain, Holden, it’s because they missed it too much. But in the midst of all the camaraderie, the athletes never forget the sport itself, and their competitive drive is palpable. “We’re playing because we love the game, but we’re playing to win too,” leading scorer center Dave Glynn (COL ’08) says. The practice drills, though not mechanical and robotic, are methodical. Practices are succinct so as not to squander precious access to the ice. “We don’t waste any time,” Kokidko says. “We don’t try to do too much. . We perfect what we do.” The strategy has worked. The Hoyas went undefeated in the ACC league with a 12-0 record, finishing 20-2 overall, a marked improvement from last season’s 6-4 league record, and 11-11 total. It’s only Georgetown’s fourth season in the league, yet the first two seasons included two trips to the championship game and a victory in the 2005 final. Last year, Virginia bounced the Hoyas from the tournament in the second round. Thanks to their stellar record, the Hoyas nearly received a bid to this year’s ACHA regional tournament. An invite would have been the first ever for an ACC team, and the Hoyas are the favorite going into this weekend’s ACC tournament, as well as the only team with a first-round bye. To top it off, the Hoyas swept the ACC regular-season awards. Glynn was tapped as the league’s most valuable player after notching two game-winning goals, two hat tricks and three four-point games in league play, and freshman Greg Graham (MSB ’10) was chosen as the league’s most valuable goalie. Back at practice, the players are starting to tire, panting as they rest in between line changes during their mock scrimmages. In the background, there’s a baby-faced kid sitting in the stands, who turns out to be a recruit. “He’s basing his decision on which college he wants to go [to] on the guys,” Holden says, commenting that it “is a powerful thing for us because it means we are contributing to Georgetown University, which is extremely important for us.” Practice clocks in at 75 minutes, just as long as a typical class on the Hilltop, but the team only has the ice once a week. It’s just one feature of many that make this club sport different than the other activities on campus, part of what leads Kokidko to describe the team as “a somewhat complex program both on and off the playing surface.” The all-volunteer program, from the coaches on down, is a do-it-yourself team. While other teams have large university funding budgets to spend, university employees to fix their schedules and university grounds to practice on, the ice hockey athletes are the ones who make their season happen, from scheduling and transportation to publicity and fundraising. As the players weave around cones on the ice, Ryan urphy (MSB ’09) approaches me. Sitting out practice with an injured ankle, Murphy reflects that the team has to “make it on our own. We just try to get all our friends to come to the game; there’s not really university involvement.” Yet despite the title of a club sport, the team takes the commitment seriously. “By all means we don’t consider ourselves a club team,” Holden says. “We try to run ourselves as professionally or as varsity-esque as possible.” It’s a grassroots effort fashioned out of love for the sport and the team, and people are noticing the effect of that formula, both on and off the ice. According to Murphy, there have been at least three or four games this season that have attracted more than 100 spectators, a definite increase in fan support, most likely due to the team’s success. Kokidko describes this season as a “watershed moment” for the program. “We have had very strong growth in the needed area of support that is subsequently allowing this program the ability to compete successfully in the ACHA and as well as the ACC,” he explains. In addition to Glynn and Graham, there are a number of effective and impressive contributors on the team, many of whom Kokidko believes have the ability to play on a Division I level but instead chose to come to Georgetown. The team itself also recognizes the talent. “We don’t have a varsity team at Georgetown, so the best hockey players at the school are on this team,” Holden says. “So we take a lot of pride in that.” Whatever the formula or the reason, the hockey team has a future beyond the tournament this weekend to look forward to. “The team’s only going to get better, the support’s only going to grow,” assistant captain Conor Hickton (SFS ’08) says. “It’s all looking up for the hockey team.” Georgetown will face the lowest-seeded team Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, Va. in the second round of the tournament. All tournament games are broadcast live on ESPN Radio (840 AM). As they walk off the ice, the players joke with each other, a few pausing to take one last shot, and the coach cracks a smile that has at least three teeth missing. A couple days later, I see two of the players selling T-shirts in Leavey Center, showing that there is something under the radar here. These kids are working hard to play hard. Maybe Kokidko was right, as cliché as he sounded; this team just might be about developing the whole person. Maybe they should advertise this team on campus tours. After all, it’s already grabbed the attention of at least one prospective student.

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