by Dick Baldwin
1972-1973 UB Hockey Media Guide
Ice Hockey, under the influence of neighboring Canadian spunk, enjoyed meager status through the 1930’s at Buffalo. There were earlier attempts to establish a program, the University was represented by a team in 1896, but play was officially recognized as part of the eight-sport intercollegiate package in 1933-34. (Other sports – football, basketball, golf, tennis, cross-country, track, and wrestling).
Construction of the new library was completed on the site of the early outdoor ice rink; thus, the sport froze. Mild winters prevented organized practice and game scheduling. Three rink sites were proposed by the athletic department, but the plea for puck space went unanswered.
With the absence of a proper rink interest on and off campus diminished. A band of buffs didn’t let the entire program die, however, as the sport stayed alive on an intramural basis and one night a week the “team” would play a practice game at Nichols Prep.
Not until 1962 did bonified “club” hockey return to the campus. An early ace was Dan Gorney reputed to be extremely accomplished in all facets of the game. Gorney with student manager Ivan Makuch organized the program and kept it solvent, mostly on an assessment of $25 per player. The athletic department donated retired football jerseys and a sympathetic ear. Funds were not forthcoming at the time for club sports.
The club team had its early moments – mostly early A.M. for practice at the rented Ft. Erie Arena. Skating sessions often commenced at midnight and lasted until weary legs gave out. Later (1965) the team headquartered at the new Amherst Recreational Center on Millersport Highway.
The hockey bug bit undergraduate Howie Flaster ’66, a no n-skater from New York. Flaster put the growing U/B hockey house in order, recruiting brisk young talent from neighboring Canadian hotbeds. He continued to lend direction to the sport as a graduate student and part-time assistant in the athletic department.
Lorne Rombough, Ft. Erie, helped gain attention for the young Bulls through the 1966-67 club season when he scored 38 goals in 17 games. Rombough went into professional hockey upon graduation and soon should be joined by other Buffalo graduates.
The club sextets scheduled any team willing to skate with them. Despite the open-end invitation, the Bulls pounded pucks home at Amherst and on the road. But there were unpleasant moments, too, such as a 24-0 offensive lesson from Oswego St. in 1965.
For 1965-66 the athletic department started to contribute to the hockey fortunes. AD Jim Peelle liked the fast-stepping game and was determined to assist the program, as the team became a member of the Finger Lakes Collegiate Hockey League (FLCHL).
Trey Coley, ex -Colgate ace, joined the program as head coach for the 1966-67 season. This team went 7-7-1 with a campus following building, plus a FLCHL Tourney birth. The next year the Bulls hit headlines with a 16-1-0 record. They won 16 in succession and the league flag. The 1968-69 unit under Coach Steve Newman, father of Captain Bill, posted an overall 19-5-0 summary. UB lost the tournament championship to Canton Tech 3-2.
In 1969-70 ice hockey became a varsity competition under the complete governance of the athletic department. The search was out for a full-time mentor, but the position remained vacant for the duration of the season. Canadian Bibber O’Hearn took the team most of the way through a 17-game slate and the Bulls played 14-3-0 with a perfect 8-0-0 in the FLCHL. They lost the championship tourney title to Canton ATC.
The stability of hockey was established prior to the 1970-71 season when Ed Wright, Boston U ’69, joined the P.E. staff as the first full-time professional coach. Wright brings to Buffalo a wealth of experience as a star performer with BU’s annual NCAA championship Terriers.