Obviously, hockey isn’t a sport native to Florida, but the University of South Florida managed to form a team. Each player has a different story, but shares a common goal.
“From the minute you step on the ice you’re going all out,” forward Brendon Ramsay said. “You don’t really slow up until you’re off the ice. You are pretty much dead-tired by the time you are off the ice.”
The USF IceBulls recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. However, much of the team’s history is still unknown.
Currently, former players Jay Jordin and Kevin Castine coach the IceBulls, and this year former IceBulls goalie Nick Sullivan will join them as goalie coach.
The IceBulls finished the 2006-2007 season with an overall record of 21-6-0.
Some of the IceBulls 2007-2008 opponents will include Georgia Tech, the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University. In January, the IceBulls will host the USF Madi-Goss tournament.
The IceBulls includes players from Florida to New York and a few places above and between.
Ramsay, a senior majoring in creative writing, is a goalie turned forward. Ramsay started playing hockey at 3 years old. His story differs from other IceBulls because he grew up in a hockey environment. His father played and coached in the National Hockey League.
“It’s been pretty much ingrained in me to play,” Ramsay said. Drew Dinzik, a sophomore majoring in business, began hockey in a different environment than Ramsay. He started playing roller hockey as a child in Stuart. He didn’t play ice hockey until he joined the IceBulls.
Sullivan, a senior majoring in history, first played hockey in Niagara Falls, N.Y., but moved to Florida when he was 6 years old. Although, according to Sullivan, the best players in Florida could compete with the best players from the Northern states, there simply isn’t as much opportunity for them.
At 18, Sullivan left the Sunshine State to try out for junior hockey teams in Canada, but wasn’t successful.
“Now that I look at it, (it) probably wasn’t the best choice here in Florida,” Sullivan said. “I probably would have had a better shot playing football or soccer, but I liked (hockey) the best.”
After returning to Florida to attend college, Sullivan joined the IceBulls at USF so he could continue playing hockey. Sullivan has played goalie for the IceBulls for five years.
“If another player makes a mistake, they have another player to back them up,” said Sullivan. “But if a goalie makes a mistake, then it’s in the goal. I guess I like that pressure.”
Camaraderie is one reason why many of the IceBulls play.”When you step into the locker room with the guys it’s like you’re one big family. It’s clichÃ©, but it really is,” said Ramsay.
Ramsay attributes this overall feeling to spending large amounts of time together. The season begins with training camp at the end of August and ends with regular season play at the beginning of February. Regional competition begins a week later.
Another reason some IceBulls play is the speed of the game.”I like the tempo of the game,” Sullivan said. “It’s one of the fastest sports out there.”
Dinzik and Ramsay agree.
“It’s constant flow,” Ramsay said. “It’s a fast game.”In hockey, substitutions are made while the game is still in progress. The 30-50 seconds a player is on the ice is called a shift. Although it seems like a short amount of time when compared to the shift of an outfielder, quarterback or a soccer forward, it’s the speed of the game that makes quick shifts necessary.
“You really don’t get a lot of rest when you’re out there,” Ramsay said. “You’re either getting hit or trying to give a hit.” Shifts also allow for strategy. Many coaches attempt to get favorable match-ups with shift changes. For example, a coach will attempt to match his fastest player’s shifts with the shifts of the opponent’s fastest player to balance the game play.
It’s the intricate parts of hockey, as well as the speed of the game, that become more evident when the game is seen in person.
“Don’t judge it by what you see on TV,” Ramsay said. “It’s a game where you truly have to see it live to understand why so many people play. TV just doesn’t do it justice.”