The Humber Hawks have not donned their gold and navy hockey uniforms and stepped onto the ice to play a game since 2004. Once a powerhouse in the ranks of OCAA competitive puck, it has been 13 long years since Humber won their last Ice Hockey Championship.
Humber College lies within Toronto, a city that is often called ‘The Centre of the Hockey Universe’. This geographical proximity frequently brings on the question among campus sports fans: why or how does Humber not have teams to compete in the region’s most popular sport?
“There are too many factors in play,” says Jim Bialek, Humber’s Manager of Athletics/Sports Information and self-proclaimed “Hockey Guy” on campus. “It has nothing to do with (the availability of) athletes…of the 30 schools in the OCAA, 28 are participating in extramural hockey.
“The want for national competition is absolute. Alberta colleges are playing and they want to have a national championship but there aren’t enough other provinces participating. The number of athletes or the level of interest, have never been in doubt. It has to do with all of the associated costs, upstart costs, uniforms and equipment, booking ice time.”
Bialek was admittedly frustrated over the issue and fondly reminisced over the school’s once-dominant program.
“Humber had the best hockey team in the OCAA. We won five championships but the program still folded due to the associated costs, and lack of a sufficiently sized league,” Bialek reminisces. “When I got hired in ’81, I was the timekeeper in the rink and I convened for a long time. I’m the hockey guy, I’m all for it, but it would take a lot to bring it back.”
However not everyone shares the need for hockey at Humber.
Neetika Cohan, a fourth-year Marketing student, says, “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, I feel like a lot of schools don’t have them, we have other teams to cheer for.”
As Bialek indicates, among the costing and access concerns, a lot of the rinks near Humber North campus are fully scheduled in hosting the many local minor hockey and adult recreational leagues, making it hard to get a proper amount of practice time.
Scholarship money, meal money and travel expenses all come into play as well. Teams like Badminton and Cross Country are fully supported because they’re small, while hockey teams need to find at least 23 players, as well as coaches and staff, says Bialek. If there’s a woman’s team, the cost doubles.
Humber has one of the largest and best resourced athletics program in the province, so such challenges are thought to be even greater for other schools.
For now, it seems like Humber’s skates will remain hung up and packed away. But with a history of success and what appears to be significant interest, one day, perhaps, the Hawks will soar down the ice once again.