“Wait … USC has a hockey team?” is the typical response people have upon learning of one of the oldest club sports teams at the university. Such a reaction is understandable, as a successful college team in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles is not quite expected.
Founded in 1925, the team is now part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association as a Division-II team. The 1930s were a time of great popularity for the unique team when its archrival was Loyola Marymount. Southern Californians, who had essentially no exposure to this on-ice game, came out in droves to attend these infamous matches. According to Sports Illustrated, one match drew 8,000 fans — a record-breaking occasion.
After its heyday in the 1930s, the team went in and out of existence. Recently, the team’s popularity has soared once more as it won the PAC-8 championship in 2010. According to assistant general manager, Johnny Nguyen, “The team is the most prevalent it has been since the 1930s.”
This season’s popularity surge is understandable as the team has had a winning season and will play in the PAC-8 playoffs in Seattle this weekend. Only the top four teams of the conference qualify and the Trojans had a tough fight to contend in the playoffs. Winning seasons are not easy to come by with schools such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, Washington and Washington State in the same conference.
With players hailing from all over the United States and Canada, the team provides them the opportunity to surround themselves with friends who all share the unique love of hockey. Luke Walker, a graduate student studying mechanical engineering, is grateful for the wonderful opportunity he has been given playing for USC. “Playing on the hockey team has been a blast. I have met hard-working friends through this great experience […] I feel that being a part of the team has increased my overall experience here at USC,” Walker said.
Though the season got off to a rocky start, the team eventually found their chemistry on the ice and success soon followed. “We had a rocky start with so many new players and lack of chemistry, but we finished stronger in the second half of the season, which is why we’re headed to Seattle this weekend.”
During their unsteady beginnings, they lost to UCLA twice, jeopardizing the chance to keep the Crosstown Cup — the trophy awarded to the team that wins the annual best-of-five series between the two Los Angeles schools.
The resilient Trojans bounced back from this two-game deficit to annihilate the Bruins in their next two match-ups, forcing the series into a game five.
A moment of panic swept the UCLA and USC campuses when UCLA’s team was put on probation for missing a paperwork deadline. Their punishment was to forfeit the series against the Trojans and not play the final game.
Discomfited fans of both teams united together to protest this decision. Thankfully, the ruling was overturned and the Bruins and Trojans were able to play another game. The game also happened to be senior night, where the team said goodbye to five seniors and two graduate students.
A force to be reckoned with until the absolute end, the USC Trojans decimated the Bruins 8-3 that night. In addition to a glorious season-ending game on home ice at The Rinks Anaheim ICE — the practice facility of the NHL Anaheim Ducks — there were food trucks and two special appearances: the USC Kazan Taiko Japanese Drum Players and the Trojan Knights with the Victory Bell in tow.
This weekend the Trojans look to play Utah in their first-round matchup with the hopes of winning their ninth PAC-8 Championship.