Hockey club enjoys another successful alumni game

(June 13, 2019) Kennesaw State University’s club ice hockey team enjoyed another successful alumni game in early May as more than 40 former members associated with the program showed up for some fun, excitement and skating.

“We shoot for three lines on each team, so that’s 15 guys on each side and then at least two goalies,” said Ryan Falvai ’07, ’11, who helped start the Owls’ club hockey program in the fall of 2002 and has stayed involved with it. “So, 32 is kind of the smallest (turnout) it’s been, and we usually have a couple more that we work in.” 

The annual event, which started in 2012, was held the evening of Saturday, May 4 at The Cooler in Alpharetta, Georgia. Many of the vibrant attendees gathered after the game at a local restaurant for food, drinks and even more comradery. The KSU Unit of Alumni and Constituent Engagement and Annual Giving contributed to the event, as it has in the past, by securing the ice time and donating pennants and other promotional items.

Of those who attended the game, many earned degrees at Kennesaw State.

“Almost all are people that have graduated from here,” said Falvai, who earned his Bachelor of Science in psychology and then a Master of Public Administration from KSU.

In the past, fundraising was associated with the alumni game. Before this year’s alumni gathering, more than $17,000 had been raised for different organizations and the general operations of the team.

“What I’ve been working on doing is trying to establish an annual fundraising drive from the KSU hockey alumni to raise money for the current team,” Falvai said. “So, I use this (alumni game) to kind of talk about that with them. My main issue is just a fundraising platform because we and I are not non-profits.”

The fundraising element of KSU hockey came about many years ago when those associated with the program wanted to help one of the first coaches of the team, Tom Kartalies.

“The first thing that kind of got us started was one of our first coaches had cancer, lymphoma,” Falvai said. “He had beaten it and was doing a fundraiser for the Lymphoma & Leukemia Society where he could be sponsored by friends and family. He was going to do a 100-mile bike ride, that was his thing, and we joined together with him, did the fundraiser and made it around the alumni game. We raised over $11,000 on that one.

“The second year we did it for the American Cancer Society and then the third time we did it for the (Kennesaw State) Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth. 

Now, Falvai has a vision to expand the fundraising.

“My plan, hopefully, for fundraising is to have an annual gift to the team. So, do a fundraiser for that,” Falvai said. “I have a list and it’s over 100 guys now that have all played and graduated. So, if everyone donates 50 bucks, that’s $5,000 for the team, which is huge for them.

“The other thing we’d like to do is develop a scholarship. So, hopefully in a few years we’ll have an endowed scholarship. Those are our future plans with fundraising.”

With Falvai’s persistence, KSU’s club ice hockey team was formed during his undergraduate years. The early success of the program led to more club teams being established and now the University has a Department of Sports and Recreation – Club Sports, which oversees more than 30 groups for men and women. 

“We became an official club and just kind of funded everything ourselves through player dues and fundraising,” Falvai said. “After we did that, we could apply for travel just like a student club, so if we had a game out of town we could apply for some travel. That’s how we started getting funding.” 

Falvai has been around Kennesaw State for quite some time as an undergraduate, then graduate student and now an employee. He currently serves as a research associate at the A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research.

“The school has changed so much. It’s gotten so much bigger and the students are so different now,” Falvai said. “When I went, no one had a KSU shirt on or anything like that; now that’s all you see. That’s really neat to see that change.

“I think one of the things that’s still kind of the same is that if you have a desire or idea, you can pursue it here. Everything hasn’t been done yet, so there are a lot of opportunities to create something that’s new or be a part of something that maybe you can’t be a part of somewhere else.”

Falvai believes Kennesaw State offers unique opportunities, especially for undergrads.

“I think our focus on undergraduate research is great,” Falvai said. “I have like 40 students that work for me in our telephone research lab that are doing hands-on, real-world data collection and then once they distinguish themselves, get to do some analytics and report writing. When they leave, they can have their degrees but they also have experience.”

Today, the Owls’ hockey club is prospering after some lean years. The biggest highlight in the team’s history continues to be the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III national championship it won in 2007.

“They’ve definitely had some challenges and things have happened, but they’ve come back from that so that’s a good thing,” Falvai said. “The ACHA has been around for a while and is pretty established, and we’ve been a part of that the whole time.” 

Having a solid affiliation with the ACHA is very important for both scheduling and travel. After claiming its national title a dozen years ago, KSU moved up to Division II but later came back to the Division III level.

“It’s more of a geography thing, just that every other team in the south is D3,” Falvai said. “The closest D2 team, I think, was in Kentucky.”

The team typically plays 30-plus games each year between September and March.

Starting in the upcoming 2019-20 season, Kennesaw State will also be a member of the ACHA’s South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference with other Division III schools. The Owls are in the SECHC East Division with Clemson University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, the University of South Carolina and the University of Tennessee.

“That will help with scheduling because then you have to play these SEC teams every year, so that I think will help them a lot,” Falvai said.

Getting ice time at a rink in metropolitan Atlanta can be challenging for KSU to have home games. In 2015, the alumni game was not played because ice team could not be secured.

For years, the Owls hosted games at IceForum, located not far from the Kennesaw campus, but the rink closed last summer. However, the Owls now hope to establish home ice at a new facility being built nearby that is scheduled to open in August.

“There’s a new rink going up that’s right down the street, it’s on Barrett Parkway,” Falvai said. “One of the guys who used to coach the team, I believe, is part of the ownership group of that rink and the teams that will be playing there.”

The Atlanta Mad Hatters, a local youth and junior hockey program, will be based out of the new facility. In 2019-20, the Mad Hatters will field teams in the premier and elite divisions of the United States Premier Hockey League, which was founded in 2012 and is the nation’s largest amateur ice hockey association.

With its new conference affiliation and a facility going up close by, Kennesaw State hockey has a bright future and its alumni game should continue to bring former players and fans together for years to come.

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