Intramurals in the ‘State of Hockey’

The UAHL is the only full-contact intramural hockey league in the United States.

Junior civil engineer Sam Paitich watches his hockey team play on Sunday night at Mariucci Arena. The University Athletic Hockey League (UAHL) is the only full-contract Intramural hockey league in the country.

Junior civil engineer Sam Paitich watches his hockey team play on Sunday night at Mariucci Arena. The University Athletic Hockey League (UAHL) is the only full-contract Intramural hockey league in the country.

Austin Cumblad

The Van Cleve All Stars continued to pile up goals, but the scorekeeper decided to stop at 17. By that point, it was clear the All Stars had skills deserving of a better home ice than a frozen pond at Van Cleve Park. It is perhaps fitting that the âÄúState of HockeyâÄù is home to the University Athletic Hockey League, the only full-contact intramural hockey league in the country. An overwhelming majority of participants played in high school, and those still in need of a competitive fix have an outlet not available elsewhere. âÄúWe still have the competitive juices,âÄù said Will Tabor, a member of the three-time defending champion Van Cleve All Stars. âÄú[For intramurals], itâÄôs the closest to being on an actual college team that you can find.âÄù One of the few differences between a UAHL game and a Gophers home game is 10,000 absent fans. Teams are provided matching jerseys, the referees are certified by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, games run a full 60 minutes and individual statistics are updated weekly. Intramural supervisor Sidd Ramanuj hopes to start a Web site to track league standings. No other intramural sport at the University is quite as serious, and for good reason âÄî the league fee is $1,600. Non-contact hockey, which also happens to be the second most expensive sport, costs just $285. There are no skill requirements for the UAHL, but the steep price tag usually acts as a natural filter for less competitive teams. Had they chosen to, a number of players in the league could have played college hockey. Joel Gitar received an offer to play at Division III Carleton College, and Sever Lundquist was prepared to walk on at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Instead, both were accepted at the University of Minnesota, and school took precedent over hockey. Others might have been able to play in developmental leagues meant to act as a springboard for college or professional hockey. âÄúThatâÄôs what it was for all of us out of high school,âÄù Collin Iacarella said. âÄúIt was either go play juniors for a couple years, chase the dream, or go to school and play intramurals.âÄù All things considered, itâÄôs easy to forget that the UAHL is still very much an intramural league. With the United States and Canada facing off in Olympic hockey at the same time, the Van Cleve All Stars and their opponent together had only five substitutes during SundayâÄôs 7 p.m. game. Or, if a teamâÄôs goalie doesnâÄôt show, an inexperienced replacement with borrowed pads takes his place, as was the case in the 9 p.m. game. And though theyâÄôd love to four-peat, the Van Cleve All Stars arenâÄôt exactly in the middle of a rigorous training regimen. As their name suggests, they play outdoor pick-up games at Van Cleve Park, but thatâÄôs the extent of it. âÄúNo one would show up if I threw practice,âÄù team captain Sam Shaw said, laughing. Whatever competitive juices still flow through Shaw and his team, theyâÄôre limited to Sunday and Monday nights. Even then, they donâÄôt take themselves too seriously. The five players that milled around after SundayâÄôs game immediately perked up when someone mentioned teammate David Carbonneau. They all heaped excessive, clearly disingenuous yet good-natured compliments on their absent teammate. Carbonneau didnâÄôt play hockey in high school. Somewhere between âÄúsmokes the competitionâÄù and âÄúNHL flow,âÄù it became quite obvious that Carbonneau was not the âÄúabsolute studâÄù of the team. Also quite obvious: Despite the steep price, competition and checking, the UAHL is an intramural league through and through.