Allison Milton/The AS Review
Western is home to many sports, from basketball to volleyball to softball. But hockey? Yes, Western has a hockey team. And team captain Jeff Bulger hopes you don’t forget it.
“I don’t know how many times I have told people that I play hockey for Western and they say, ‘Wait, Western has a hockey team?’ Well, yes, we do have a hockey team, and we’re damn good, too,” he said.
Club sports at Western include ice hockey, ultimate Frisbee, rugby, lacrosse, tennis, baseball, sailing and more. These sports are not classified as varsity sports like basketball and volleyball and therefore get less funding and support from the school, Bulger said.
Bulger said marketing and funding are the two biggest disadvantages for his team. While varsity sports get help from the university to advertise their games, club sports do not get the same amount and usually have to attract fans to their games themselves.
“It is actually very unfortunate because Western has some really good sports teams, but since they are a club sport nobody even knows they exist,” he said.
To raise money for their team, the hockey players find sponsors, collect player dues, sell tickets and merchandise and send letters home to ask for help with funding.
Club Sports Advisor Kendra Jackson said club sports must fundraise a large portion of their funds because there is not enough money to go around to all the teams and the 500 students that comprise them.
The hockey team played their home games at the Sportsplex during their season and Bulger admitted that the venue’s distance from campus may have turned people away from attending.
“If you have ever been to a hockey game you know they are so much fun to watch. You can come out, scream as loud as you want, bang on the glass and just have an all around good time,” Bulger said.
The hockey season may be over, but the excitement from ending the season 21-1-1 is something that will be with these players for a long time. And for Bulger, who is a senior this year, it means ending his Western hockey career on a high point.
“[It was a] hell of a season to go out on,” he said.
Club sports are similar to AS clubs because each team has a president, vice president, budget authority and other administrative student positions. For Jen Sawyer, president of the women’s lacrosse team, being on the team means helping out with every aspect, from paperwork to game scheduling to coaching.
Jackson said the players have a lot of control over their teams because they are in leadership roles and end up benefiting from the skills they obtain by not only being a player but being in positions such as coach, captain or president as well.
The Western women’s lacrosse team is another example of a club sports team that is stopping at nothing to make sure that the team is representing the school even without the funding given to varsity sports.
Sawyer, who is a junior this year, said their team is funded by the state, but they work throughout the year on fundraising to replenish the state fund. She said they attempt to raise back 50 percent of the funds the state allocates to their team through newsletters and hosting lacrosse tournaments. Last spring, they hosted Lax-A-Palooza, a tournament held with teams from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Boise, Idaho. The tournament helped fund Western’s team through T-shirt sales and entry fees. This spring, they hope to continue the tournament and will invite more teams and sell more gear to raise money for the team.
The Western women’s lacrosse team, like many other club sports, does not hire coaches to run practices and games. Their success can be credited to the students themselves, who run the team with their own skills, leadership and passion.
The women’s lacrosse team has student captains, who double as coaches, as well as a group of players who work on fundraising and operations.
“I like that we’ve been able to build our team from the ground up without having a coach,” Sawyer said. “We’re running it all on our own.”