Oldest BU sports club celebrates 40 years of hockey
Ask about the late Pete BardezBanian ’54 (at left with player Bill Taylor ‘72), and those who knew him will likely mention the Bradley hockey club founder was a hockey guy.
It’s quite the understatement. “His one thing was, hockey is the best thing in the world,” said Jack Thorp ’71 MS ’72, who played under BardezBanian for five years and was an assistant coach from 1972 to 1982. “If you didn’t like hockey, you’d have to come see a game. Then, you’d like hockey.”
Peoria’s Mr. Hockey
It’s not a stretch to say BardezBanian had a hand in everything hockey in Peoria. After all, he was once called Peoria’s “Mr. Hockey.” Stories about BardezBanian include the times he jumped a fence with a handful of other hockey players to get early morning ice time at an outdoor rink at Lakeview Park. Eventually officials gave BardezBanian ice time, which he used to teach Peoria’s youth the game he loved. And so Peoria’s youth hockey asso-ciation was born.
In the 1960s, the 5-foot-7, 137-pound BardezBanian created, played for, and coached the Peoria Stars, which he later moved to Pekin. In the early 1970s, he was the captain and president of the Peoria Blades, the forerunner to minor league hockey in Peoria. Meanwhile, he created and coached the Bradley club, starting in 1966. He was also among the founders of the Central States Collegiate Hockey League, made up of teams from the Midwest.
A Detroit native and longtime comptroller for the city of Peoria, BardezBanian started the Bradley club by visiting dorm rooms and fraternity houses across campus looking for hockey players. As coach of the club, BardezBanian led Bradley to the 1971 CSCHL title. His coaching style included his own participation. “I did not realize how good he was until now,” said Taylor, who played in the alumni game in October. “He was able to keep up with us, which at his age was not that easy.” During Taylor’s four years at Bradley, BardezBanian was in his forties.
For at least one player, BardezBanian was the reason he came to Bradley. “When I was an incoming freshman, I called Pete about the hockey games because I wanted to play in college,” said Bruce Becker ’75. “Pete was responsible for me coming to Bradley. At that time, Pete had visions of this club growing into a Division I club.” The club is currently classified as a Division II Club affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the national governing body for intercollegiate club hockey.
BardezBanian died of cancer in 1999. Of the man whose name is on the annual award given to the Bradley club MVP and the Most Popular Rivermen Player, Thorp said, “He was skating right up until the end.”
The ice surface at Logan Park would be considered nothing less than a home field advantage today.
The bitter wind, black boards, and ice that felt more like sand paper created quite the atmosphere for the early years of Bradley’s club hockey team. “It wasn’t so bad to play there during the day in the winter,” says Thorp, who was the club’s first captain.
Even during the day, Logan Park had its challenges. The boards surrounding the surface, which were black to keep the sun from reflecting off a white board and melting the ice, made it difficult for anyone to see the black puck as it slid near the boards. “It was really tough on the goalies,” said Becker. “But it was tough on anybody to pick the puck up.”
And at night, the difficulties were multiplied. “There was one game I remember that no one wanted to come off the ice,” said Taylor. “It was not because they were selfish. It was just so cold that sitting on the bench meant that, if you were sweating, it may freeze before your next turn.” In similar conditions, Thorp recalled players crouching down on the bench to get out of the wind. “They may poke their head up, or their stick would be up hanging up, and you’d hit a stick if you wanted to come off,” Thorp said.
Even the warmer temperatures of spring created a challenge on the ice, which would start melting and re-freezing in February. “It would be like skating in sand,” Thorp said. “You’d get some glide, but if you fell, you’d rip your socks or shirt.”
In 1972, an inflatable dome was put over the ice. While it remained a cold experience, the quality of the ice improved. The team bounced around to various venues before landing at its current home, the Owens Center.
A trio of Bradley Braves basketball players spent the summer preparing for a future in professional basketball after leading the Braves to a Sweet 16 appearance in March.
Marcellus Sommerville ’06 made the most of his time in the Southern California Summer Pro League in July. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 13.6 points in five games for the Dallas Mavericks.
Lawrence Wright ’06 will continue his basketball career with the Harlem Globetrotters. Wright, also known as “Boogie,” will tour with the Globetrotters for the 2006-07 season. The 6-foot-4 forward, who is expected to join the world famous team in October, joins former Brave Jermaine Brown ’02 on the 28-man roster, which is often split into multiple teams. The first Bradley Brave to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, Bobby Jo Mason ’60, played from 1962-1976, and was team captain for several years. Mason died on July 4 in Springfield.
Patrick O’Bryant ‘08, drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the ninth pick in the NBA Draft in June, averaged 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in five games for the Warriors in the 2006 Vegas Summer League. O’Bryant, who will wear No. 26 for Golden State, signed with the Warriors in July.
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