Cats hockey builds off of greatness of past seasons

The 2013 athletic season marks the 50th anniversary of UVM men’s hockey program. This is an overall accomplishment for the University, but it also highlights the legacy and prestige that has been built by these teams over a half-century of competition.

Over the 50 years that UVM men’s hockey has competed at the Division 1 varsity level, there have only been four coaches that have lead the Catamounts. 

Although Bill Ruffer started the program in 1963, he only remained at the helm for two years before giving way to Jim Cross who remained with the team for 19 seasons. Mike Gilligan, Cross’ successor, also remained with the team for 19 years, and accumulated the best winning percentage of all UVM coaches. 

Subsiding in 2003,  After handing off the reigns in 2003 to Kevin Sneddon, who has retained the head coach position for the past ten years.

Chris Zimmerman graduated from the University in 1981, and he said that “the work ethic of Cross, Gilligan and Sneddon has provided a great foundation for many former players even after the last time they lace it up for the Cats.”

 “I have been proud to say I was a Catamount hockey player throughout my professional career,” Zimmerman said.

In a Media Day interview last month, Coach Sneddon mentioned that the level of competition in the Hockey East is consistently high, adding that the addition of Notre Dame, who is frequently a force for the National Title, will “strengthen the division as well.”

“[Hockey East] is like no other league that I had played in, in the sense that every night you have to be sharp or you can look pretty bad. It is very cool to play with and against players that have very bright futures and to learn from their games,” senior captain H.T. Lenz said.

About 14 UVM alumni have gone on from the program to play in the NHL. A few of the organization’s standouts include, American John Leclair, Canadian Martin St. Louis, American Tim Thomas and American Aaron Miller, who were all Olympians for their respective countries. Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg both reached large-scale notoriety while raising the Stanley Cup in 2012. 

“When I was in the recruiting process I learned a lot about the tradition and legacy that UVM had which absolutely helped influence my decision,” Lenz said. “It really made it more inviting and appealing to come to UVM knowing that it has strong tradition and is a well respected program thanks to the legacy built by the teams before ours.”

Senior assistant captain Connor Brickley said that he has a lot to appreciate from his time spent at the program. 

“It’s amazing to be able to play for Vermont’s team and have the whole community join around you, and they want to see you succeed,” Brickley said. “Our team is always playing for something more than ourselves, and it’s always that sweater that we put on each night.”

Coach Sneddon said he expects the program to take a big step forward this year, beginning when the Catamounts face their first Hockey East opponent Nov. 1 when Notre Dame travels to the Gutterson Fieldhouse.