Laker Ledger: Ice hockey tradition runs deep in Oswego

Over the past 50 years, Oswego, N.Y. has developed the identity of being a hockey town. This weekend, it is time to celebrate a tradition that transcends the boards of Romney Field House and the Marano Campus Center Arena.

In 1964, George Crowe brought together a group of young men to form the first men’s ice hockey team at Oswego State which was, at the time, a club program. Since those humble beginnings, the team has become a varsity team and become one of the most storied in D III.

Oswego State is currently on a 5-year streak of runs to the NCAA Frozen Four, but the greatness is by no means a recent development. The Lakers have been to the Frozen Four eight times, won a national championship in 2007, been to the NCAA tournament 15 times and won the SUNYAC tournament title 10 times, including the last two.

Individually, the program has 103 all-conference selections, 10 conference players of the year, 10 conference rookie of the years, five conference coaches of the year, 25 All-Americans, a national player of the year (Paul Rodrigues, 2013) and 51 players in the school’s 100-point club.

Through the decades, a multitude of players have donned the green and gold and brought the Lakers to the highest heights in collegiate sports. From Crowe, at the start, to Oswego native Ed Gosek, in the present, only five coaches have guided the team. The continuity on the bench, in large part, has to do with a connection to the community felt by these coaches.

While Don Unger (1980-1996, class of 1970) and Gosek (2003-present, class of 1983) were former players turned head coaches, all managers had a great experience and have been embraced by Oswego. That has much to do with the fan base, which creates an infamous atmosphere throughout D III.

Beginning in Romney Field House until the team moved into the Marano Campus Center in the fall of 2006, Oswego State men’s ice hockey games have always been popular events not just for students on campus, but the locals as well. Former players remember packed barns across Route 104 with fans standing several people deep at ice level. Nowadays, the announcement of a sellout crowd is still a common occurrence in the closing moment of games.

Although the student section, known as the Zoo, is no longer in existence at the Marano Campus Center Arena, the energy created by the U-shaped section for students in the near end of the rink keeps the memory of the rowdy days in Romney alive. From opening night of the season to White Out Weekend, the fans continue to get behind the team and assist in willing it to victory.

Throughout the years, the team has given back to the community that supports it in such force in a number of ways. The Lakers have led the charge to grow ice hockey’s popularity in Oswego County by volunteering locally, including Oswego, Fulton and Skaneateles’ minor hockey programs. It is a tradition of service that Gosek is proud to continue today. Such kind acts are what bring Oswego State’s men’s ice hockey team to an even higher level of greatness.

As alumni return this weekend, the old stories will flow while new stories are written early on in this already promising season. The success today is the epitome of how far the program has come, and how much further it has the potential to go.