Navy hockey practice demands rapid skate motion from the team and rapid eye movement from the gallery. This team moves faster and changes lines without any question. They scrimmage with each other and even with the staff. This team is very quick and they have a language all their own. Their coach, Richard Randazzo, is a 1993 West Point grad and they play the game they need in order to win. Even with the Navy-Army rivalry, this coach has worked wonders for this team as well as the past six teams.
One of the challenges for hockey at USNA is the fact that it is a club sport and as such doesn’t have the power of a varsity sport. But that hasn’t kept the program from developing.
It actually took the Marines to get the plan up and moving. In 1975, Maj. R.H. Kirkpatrick, USMC, created the initial Navy hockey program. By 1978 the Crab Pot was a key element in the success of this club sport. This annual event draws large crowds and intense competition. The Naval Academy was instrumental in the start-up of the ECHA (Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association) in 1991. Because of fiscal restraints at all colleges and universities, club sports flourish and the ECHA has premier teams from 11 prestigious campuses. Lehigh, Drexel, West Chester, Duquesne, Villanova, Scranton, Rutgers, West Virginia, Towson and URI compete as the largest, world-wide collegiate hockey association.
Arenas vary throughout the league but Dahlgren Hall has to be one of the most historically renowned venues. This exceptional place started life as an armory and the site of all graduations until 1956. Named after Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, who was a scientist and weapons inventor, all ordnance training was done in the 90,000 square foot hall until the 1970s, when the weapons training was relocated to the Naval Station Annapolis. Dahlgren Hall became the practice location for basketball, tennis and golf. Pictures throughout the balcony attest to the versatility of the hall. Today the space is home to the Navy hockey team, over ten youth hockey teams, the Dry Dock Restaurant, reception and lounge areas and, until 2003, there was a “Yellow Peril” training bi-plane on loan from the Smithsonian Institution suspended from the high ceiling.
Preparations are now in the works to restore the hall to its former status. This means the hockey team will be skating elsewhere. Plans are on the board for a new facility for a rink, weight rooms, indoor tennis, pro shops and a restaurant.
Hockey is an expensive sport and whether Navy will compete in NCAA Division 1 Men’s Hockey is difficult to forecast. Coach Randazzo has secured Navy Hockey history with co-hosting the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four in Washington DC. This premier event is another chance for this team to ‘skate’ to victory.
Bill Knips (’06 co-captain) and Ryan Dobie (’06 goalie) both wrote identical observations regarding how hockey and now Navy hockey has formed them as mids, as men and as future Naval officers. Team sports require group focus, desire and spirit. Navy Hockey under Coach Randazzo and his staff has succeeded with hundreds of games and even over a hundred wins. Another proud Navy team!