After 2 years, Loyola poised to take its fire on ice to higher plane


December 02, 1990|By Susan Reimer

Scott Reise never had played an organized game of ice hockey until he came to Loyola College, and now he wants to be general manager of the New York Rangers some day.

The catch is, Loyola didn't have an ice hockey team when Reise came to the school from Bridgewater, N.J. two years ago. He started it, and he's pretty much its general manager.

Neil Smith, if you are reading this in your New York Rangers office, you might want to loosen your collar.

"I don't see myself ever being away from this sport," said Reise, who played deck hockey in tennis shoes, but nothing more on skates than pickup games on the ponds near his home.

"There is some serious motivation in this kid," said his coach, Jeremy Altman. "Make that, on this team."

Loyola's club hockey team (6-2) will take that motivation onto the ice at the Baltimore Arena today when it plays rival Johns Hopkins (4-3-1) at 1:30 p.m. in a game that was moved from the more confining quarters of the Mount Pleasant ice rink, where last season 400 screaming fans made it almost impossible for the players to hear each other.

"You can't believe the intensity," said Reise.

The team is rooted in Reise's passion for the sport, a passion shared by teammates who sacrifice sleep to practice at 11:30 p.m. and to ride buses to Pennsylvania for 10:45 p.m. games.

"The demand for rink time is so great, those are the only times we can get," said Reise.

"It isn't a chore; it's fun," said Loyola's chief goal scorer Mike Pilson, who has been playing since he was a 6-year-old in Syracuse, N.Y.

Players also sacrifice study time and what free time they have to hang posters, sell tickets, hawk T-shirts and work the concession stands at the Baltimore Arena, earning money for their team.

All of this -- a 25-man roster, a 27-game schedule and a $14,000 budget -- sprang from a meeting that Reise and some friends called two years ago in January of their freshmen year.

"Four people showed up. We were kind of upset, but we decided not to give up. We publicized the idea a little more, and 16 guys showed up at the next meeting," said Reise.

One of those guys was Chris Cerni, a goalie from Long Island, N.Y., who wasn't ready to give up the sport that he had played for seven years.

"We just love the sport. After all those years, it is tough to separate yourself completely," said Cerni, who goes straight from the library to late-night practices as he struggles to keep his grades up.

Cerni helped recruit Baltimore coach John Scavilla to guide the team last season, and the players put together a $7,000 budget and a 21-game season. When Scavilla gave up the post, he recommended as his replacement his friend Altman, a 27-year-old financial investor from Columbia who played hockey at the University of Connecticut.

Under Altman, Loyola's club hockey team is making a power play for varsity status.

"I set some pretty lofty goals," said Altman, who drives his players off the ice as hard as he does on it. Each player must sell his share of tickets and T-shirts and hang his share of posters. (Altman interrupts the interview to ask for some fund-raising tips.)

"Profits and grades, those are the two big factors," said Altman. "We will be meeting with the [Loyola recreation department] next week to see if we can move ahead with our plans or if we have bitten off more than we can chew."

Altman has cut deals with the Capital Centre and the Baltimore Arena to sandwich Loyola games between the Capital and Skipjack games. He believes there is a market for hockey in this area and that collegiate hockey -- played at University of Maryland Baltimore County, Towson, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and Georgetown -- can be a vehicle for introducing a new group of fans to professional hockey.

"I'm like them. I just love the sport," said Altman, who gets paid $1,070, for, essentially, every second of his spare time from September when practices begin until March when the season ends.

Altman and his players, who kick in $70 each and supply their VTC own equipment, have no illusions about the style of hockey that they play. What can you say about a team whose starting left wing (Reise) played his first organized game two years ago?

Pilson transferred to Loyola from Northeastern University in Boston, where he played junior varsity hockey and just barely made the varsity team. He is Loyola's most productive scorer. "I was nothing up there," he said.

"You have to love the sport to play it this far south," said Pilson. "People from up north who come to our games say, 'This is all well and good, but it's not hockey.' "

Reise, who lives near Princeton, talked about spending his school breaks going to its games, and you could hear the ache in his voice. "I mean, they are Division I. Half those guys will get drafted. . . ."

"But here we have a sense of belonging," said Cerni. "We need the team, we need the sport. And the team needs us."

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