Whether the California State University, Northridge Ice Hockey Club knew it at the time or not, its 5-3 victory over Loyola Marymount University on Feb. 23 at the Staples Center meant much more than taking home the inaugural Los Angeles Kings College Cup Championship trophy and a $1,500 donation from the Kings.
The victory brought a tremendous surge of recognition to a program that’s been on campus for 45 years, the oldest non-varsity sport at CSUN. Two days after the game, Fox Sports West — the channel that broadcasts Kings games — showed highlights from the Matadors’ win on its show, Kings Weekly.
Since then, the number of inquiries about CSUN hockey has seen a tremendous increase.
“With this win, we got to expose the CSUN brand to a large portion of the Southwest population that normally doesn’t follow or interact with sports at CSUN,” said J.P. Gale, CSUN sports club manager. “Alumni from the 1970s are reaching out about getting involved with the team, and 23 prospective students have already contacted us about coming to CSUN to play hockey.
“I was in Denver [at the airport] wearing my CSUN sweater a few days after the game, and a couple from Las Vegas approached me at the baggage claim, saying they recognized me from the broadcast and they wanted information [for] their son coming to CSUN.”
Freshman goalie Brandon Kalvoda said the opportunity to play at Staples Center will be something he’ll cherish for the rest of his college career.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play in three NHL facilities, but none had quite the history as Staples,” Kalvoda said. “Not every hockey player has the opportunity to play in a place that’s won two Stanley Cups and has hosted an All-Star Game.”
Kalvoda also noted the incredible support the team has received since the win.
“I never imagined that we would get this kind of reaction from everyone,” Kalvoda said. “I’ve gotten every response from, ‘Congratulations, I saw the coverage on television’ to, ‘We have a hockey team? That’s awesome!’”
Despite optimism from the coaching staff at the beginning of the season, the team started the year with three straight losses. However, the Matadors bounced back and finished with a record of 18-11-2 — their best record since moving from Division III to Division II in 2012.
The chance to close the successful season with a championship victory at Staples Center was the capper to a wild ride.
“For all our players, staff and fans, no one will forget that night at Staples,” Gale said. “It was a great experience, and our returning students are already looking forward to defending the cup next year.”
For more information on the team, visit the CSUN hockey website.