5 Questions with: Paul Madden, coach of RC’s ice hockey club team

by rcnewsblog on November 18, 2011

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While Paul Madden was a student at Roanoke College, he spent most of his time competing in ice hockey games with the college’s club team. At the time, the club played in a local league with games once a week against adult men from the Roanoke area. There were no regular practices, nor a cohesive team spirit.

But Madden’s passion for ice hockey remained strong after he graduated from Roanoke in 2009. He wanted to make the college’s ice hockey club a serious, collegiate level club team that would compete in games against other colleges, including playoffs and national championships.

He signed on to coach the team, and immediately went to work to build the program.

Now, the Roanoke team has 21 players and two goalies, a number that has increased in recent years due to the club’s success and popularity. Because of the support from the college, the team requires no fees from students for membership, travel expenses or equipment. This is a unique aspect of the club that Madden finds important in making ice hockey accessible to as many students as possible. The coaching staff consists of Madden as the head coach with support from assistant coaches, Alex Spezia and Mark Shifflett.

Madden hopes to continue growing the team, which has been quite successful in the past few seasons. The  players compete with club teams from a wide range of schools, including Wake Forest University, Penn State University, Old Dominion University, and their biggest rival, Radford University.

We talked with Madden about the ice hockey club’s growth in just a few short years and where he would like to see it go in the future.

RC News Blog: What made you want to get involved with the club team as a student? Why did you want to come back as a coach after you graduated?
Paul Madden: Well, when I was a student I played for the team, but at the time we only played in the local adult league, there was nothing collegiate. The students, myself included, had a desire to play at the collegiate level, and we also had a pretty good amount of skilled players. We wanted to play other colleges, so my senior year we arranged to play Liberty University twice and James Madison University once. The guys got a taste for it and really liked it, and after I graduated I continued wanting to be involved…so I went up to Bryan Ryberg [director of Intramurals & Recreation at Roanoke College], and we sat down and hashed out the logistics of expanding the team, and here we are three years later.

RC News Blog: How has the hockey program changed at Roanoke since you took over as a coach?
Paul Madden: We’re actually a part of the ACHA [American Collegiate Hockey Association] Division III now and part of the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference, which consists of us and other local colleges, like Virginia Military Institute and Radford. So, we’re members of a club conference where we have playoffs, tournaments, and national championships. Back when I was a student, all we had was maybe one game a week, no practices, and we’d be playing against 30-plus- year-old guys. It’s fun to play against other schools and have that competition and rivalry. That’s really how it’s changed now. We belong to something, and we’re competing at a much higher level.

RC News Blog: What are your goals for the growth of the club? Where do you see the club in another five years?
Paul Madden: Every year we try to improve things from the previous year. The first year I started coaching, our goal was to have a 100% college-based schedule, and we did that. We didn’t play a single game in the adult league. Then, the second year we wanted to become part of the Blue Ridge Conference and that was another step towards becoming a more reputable team that other schools respect. We showed the conference, and the other schools in the area that we have a competition level hockey team.

This year, we wanted to do a lot of internal stuff, because we’re losing a lot of seniors on the team, so we had to recruit pretty heavily. This past summer we really delved into recruiting players. We made phone calls, had tours on campus and met with parents, really trying to recruit kids to come to school to play ice hockey as their activity of choice. We’ve established playbooks and other stuff to really grow the team.

It’s only been three years, and it’s going to take awhile to grow this thing. We have goals that we want to accomplish, and every year we’ve hit those goals. Next year, I know we’re going to recruit some more. We want to work hard towards making playoffs and going to more regional tournaments. It’s great to be able to look back and see how we’ve grown and get excited for the future.

RC News Blog: What challenges do you face as a coach? And what club achievements are you most proud of?
Paul Madden: One of the biggest challenges is having to work around students’ schedules. They all want to play, but school comes first. But we’re easy to work around, because as long as the students respect the coaches’ time, we’ll respect theirs. The traveling is difficult too sometimes. [The club lost its ability to play at the Roanoke Civic Center at the end of January, which is when playoffs started.] The last month and a half of games is all road trips, which gets old after a while. Another challenge is scheduling games with other teams. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but it’s a lot of fun.

Bryan Ryberg and Mark Petersen [director of Student Activities at Roanoke] are very proud of the program, which makes me proud because it’s something I’ve worked really hard on. To hear that coming from them, how they’ve used it as a model for other club sports, makes me feel really good. Their support for the program gives me a great feeling. It really is cool when you think about how we’ve gone from playing in men’s leagues, which really isn’t much fun for a bunch of 20-year-olds to playing 25 to 30 games a year against all the schools around in just a few short years.

RC News Blog: Which teams are your biggest rivals?
Paul Madden: The absolute biggest rival is Radford. They always bring a lot of fans down with them when they play us and when our student body is there showing support, too, it’s a really fun atmosphere to play and coach in. I’m not going to lie; there have even been several fights that have broken out at games in the past. After that, probably Liberty University because they started their Division III team the same year we did, so our first year we played each other four or five times, which built up a big rivalry because we play each other so much. There are no fights with them, though. The club is young, so ask me again in 10 years, and I’m sure we’ll have a long list of rivals.

You can see Roanoke’s ice hockey club team in action at 9:30 p.m. tonight in a game against the University of Virginia at the Roanoke Civic Center.

For more information about the Roanoke College Ice Hockey club, visit the team’s website.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brittany November 19, 2011 at 9:40 am

I’m so glad Roanoke College has an ice hockey team! They are a lot of fun to watch and hopefully more students will come out to support the team throughout the season.

2 Brian January 30, 2014 at 8:05 pm

What ever happened to this club ice hockey team?

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