By Jason Klein
There was no one watching.
There was no buzz surrounding the Quinnipiac Men’s Hockey Team. There was no one posting Bobcat-related updates on Facebook. There were no celebratory Tweets or Instagram pictures either. Most of all, there was no one watching.
It was the spring of 2002 and I was inside the Northford Ice Pavilion covering QU Men’s Hockey for The Chronicle, the student-run campus newspaper. Back then, my senior year at the Q, there was no TD Bank Sports Center. Heck, there were no Bobcats either! They were the Quinnipiac Braves, they played in the MAAC Conference, and the Division I ice had barely frozen beneath their skates – the school jumped up from D-II in 1998, my freshman year.
I sat among a sparse crowd with my pad, pen, and tape recorder. Yes, an actual tape recorder…there were no apps then either. I was stationed inside the cold, unimpressive facility that reeked of high school athletics.
Small crowds, small stage.
At times, among students, it seemed like the fifteen-minute drive to watch a game in North Branford was more of a chore than an event.
Grabbing Head Coach, Rand Pecknold for a postgame interview was simple. Then, in only his 7th season leading Quinnipiac Hockey, there wasn’t much demand for his time. Sure, they were winning games back then, there just wasn’t much interest. At times, I questioned if anyone were even reading my stories. They were a fledgling team within the Division I ranks, expectations were low.
Eleven years later, everything’s changed.
In 2012-2013, the Bobcats posted a 17-2-3 ECAC Conference record, tallied a 21-game unbeaten streak from November to February, and finished the season ranked #1 in the nation. Now, Quinnipiac sits just one victory shy of claiming an NCAA Division I National Championship. The little known school from Hamden, CT, my alma mater, steamrolled through the Frozen Four Tournament to land a spot in the final game, to be played tonight in Pittsburgh against rival Yale (QU has already beaten Yale 3 times this season). It’s the sort of high-level game I could only dream about as a freshman.
I’ve always craved the big-time collegiate sports scene. It’s the one thing I really missed out on during my time in Hamden. I’ve been envious of friends and family members who attended schools like Penn State, Michigan and Syracuse.
Like every sports fan at Quinnipiac, I own the t-shirt that reads: “Quinnipiac Football – Undefeated Since 1929.” Many may not realize though, the team hasn’t won a game since 1929 either. The made up football team is a campus-wide joke.
The hockey team is no joke, though.
There is no bigger hockey program in the country than Quinnipiac’s. They are drawing national recognition and making current students, and alumni like myself, proud to be Bobcats and no longer envious of other big-time sports programs.
The Big-Time Bobcats are only one win away from a National Championship.
It’s a Brave new world for these Bobcats.
No more small crowds.
Everyone’s watching now.
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