California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

CSUN raises bar with first-class amenities

 

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Club sports are organizations created by students for the benefit of students.

They’re a source of pride for the student body; they symbolize an assumption of ownership by a group of their own.

At Cal State Northridge, the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II team has been making waves with the amount of investment being put forth to further its cause. Club sports face a number of challenges, especially in terms of recruiting, but a recent project has the Matadors thinking that future prospects will see the program as a far more appealing destination.

Last year, the team made a decision to change its home rink, moving from Valley Ice Center in Panorama City to Iceoplex Simi Valley. One of the main reasons for the move was the opportunity for the Matadors to have their own locker room.

It wasn’t simply a case of taking over a vacant space; in fact, a pair of CSUN players was responsible for designing and building the entire locker room, which came with a $27,000 price tag.

Drew Lagaly (construction management) and Greg Thompson (engineering) worked on the project from start to finish. It took six months and was completed in September of 2014.

LaGaly’s father, Tim, owns a custom cabinet shop. He joined his son and Thompson on the project. It served not only as the construction of the team’s locker room, but of their lasting legacy to the program.

“We knew that, if we were going to build this locker room and put all this time and effort into doing so, it’d greatly further our program at CSUN because it’d bring in so many recruits,” Drew LaGaly said. “For a kid playing hockey, having their own locker room is one of the most exciting things.”

CSUN has also spent close to $115,000 to provide its 30 club sports teams with their own weight room and an athletic training room, making for a wholesale upgrade of the team’s facilities.

With a large graduating class last year, the program has already seen the improved facilities pay major dividends. The Matadors were able to ice a new roster, including talented Channel Islands Riptide AA prospect Eli Berengut, who recorded his first collegiate hat trick in a game against Loyola Marymount earlier this month.

“It makes the team that much more serious,” LaGaly said of the new facilities. “Recruits and opponents understand that we mean business.”

It’s been more of a family affair for CSUN over the last decade. Steve Gale is in his 10th year as head coach of the Matadors. Gale’s sons, JP and Chris, both played for the team, with the former joining his father’s coaching staff after his playing days.

Although Chris isn’t officially affiliated with the university, the team makes all of its gear and equipment purchases from Discount Hockey, where he works as a general manager.

“We’re very much a hockey family,” said JP Gale, who’s also the manager of club sports at CSUN. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the time we’ve been there; now, it’s got a lot more structure.”

For what was once a team that dressed what looked like a pickup-game roster when the Gales arrived, the alumni have expressed a great deal of pride in the program’s development.

“We had an alumni game a few weeks ago,” Gale said, adding that the contest included former players going back to the 1970s. “They were all just shocked at the level of play, at the level of organization within the program and the amount of growth since its inception.

“Our goal is to get this team to the national championships. We hope when recruits see these facilities, they know they’re joining a program that wants to be a contender.”

– Andrew Turner