March 7, 1983
Germantown Academy has broken the ice in getting high school hockey noticed.
Most high school ice hockey programs get the same respect as, say, a bunch of kids in street clothes playing a pickup basketball game against the varsity. It’s easy to visualize a scenario in which a school’s hockey captain, wearing a few fresh bruises, enters the athletic director’s office with a blow-by-blow description of the team’s victory the night before. “That’s nice, Stash,” replies the director, who pats the boy on the head and gives him a pretzel before shooing him away. How can an athletic director, or anyone else for that matter, take ice hockey seriously when the sport has not been recognized by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) as a varsity sport? How can the players get any respect when they have to form clubs to compete? (Club teams must fend for themselves, doing their own scheduling, raising their own funds and arranging for their own coaching, transportation and practice time) Yep, hockey has had a terrible time getting recognition. That is, until Germantown Academy’s program emerged into the spotlight.
To say Germantown Academy is the Rolls- Royce of area high school ice hockey would be like calling King Kong a monkey. All G.A. has done on frozen water in the last four years is ring up a record of 98-3-1; it has lost only once in the last three years. GA began the season with a 4-4 tie with Cherry Hill East and has been putting it to other teams since, pushing its record to 21-0-1- with last week’s two-game sweep of Cheltenham in the opening round of the Suburban Hockey League playoffs. The smart money says the Patriots are the odds-on choice to win the Suburban League playoffs and go on to capture their second consecutive Flyers Cup, the Stan- ley Cup of high school hockey. Why is Germantown Academy such a hockey terror? As with most athletic programs, success involves many reasons. Foremost, GA’s hockey program has varsity status, enabling it to attract an abundance of exceptional players. This year, the stars are: J.J. Reydel, a senior who is the center and captain. He led the team in scoring three straight years, was most valuable player in the Suburban League in 1982; was on The Inquirer’s All-Southeastern Pennsylvania first team in hockey in his sophomore and junior years; was The Inquirer Athlete of the Week in March 1982, has played in every G.A. Suburban Hockey League game during the last four years, was GA Scholar-Athlete award-winner three straight years and is co-captain of the varsity soccer team.
Mike Richter, sophomore goalie. He was on The Inquirer’s All-Southeastern first team as a freshman and was varsity football half- back. Mike MacGregor, junior center. He won The Inquirer’s All-Southeastern honorable mention in 1982. Rob Schlegel, senior defenseman. He won The Inquirer’s All-Southeastern honorable mention in 1982. Mike Mullaney, senior defenseman. He won The Inquirer’s All-Southeastern honorable mention in 1982 All were key players on Germantown Academy’s 1982 Flyers Cup team. “The main ingredient is that you have to have a group of dedicated hockey players,” said Jack Reydel, the team’s unofficial general manager, who also is a teacher at G.A. and the father of J. J. “We don’t have kids that are content with simply playing high school hockey,” Reydel said. “Most of our kids belong to club teams who play on weekends when the only times they can get the ice are, say, 2 a.m. on Saturday night, or 6 am. Sunday morning. We have kids on our team who have gone to summer camps, including the Olympic Development Camp in Colorado. Most of our kids have played 50 to 60 games already this winter.” Three recent Germantown Academy graduates are playing hockey on a collegiate level, Gump Whiteside at Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology, a much-respected Division II hockey school; Jim Van Blarcom at Hobart (NY) College, and last year’s captain, Jeff, Schluchterer, at Ohio University. Last year’s outstanding goalie, Joe Richter, Mike’s brother, is playing at Northwood Prep School in Lake Placid, N.Y., and has been offered a scholarship at Colgate University. But good hockey players just don’t fall out of trees and land on the cushy green Germantown Academy fields. They look at what the school has to offer before seeking entry. What G.A. has to offer is a varsity program, which means that players pay about $125 a year to compete, compared with about $600 on club level. GA players also buy their own skates, which can cost as much as $250, but the school picks up the tab for most everything else, including uniforms, pads, league fees, insurance and most of the rink fees. GA can do this because it is a private school and, therefore, is not a member of the PIAA. “We do raise money on our own through sales and concessions, but a major share comes from the school,” said Reydel. “The hockey program has gotten tremendous support. The fact that we’re considered varsity has given our kids perhaps. a psychological advantage once they step on the ice, because they know the school is behind them. And it has attracted to our school players looking for a good program.” Part of the attraction is the coach, Bruce Craig. A native of Toronto and a former University of Pennsylvania hockey scholarship player, Craig is a self-described rink rat who, when not spending time with his GA players, is busy coaching the Junior Flyers, a youth hockey (age 12 to 15) traveling team sponsored by the Philadelphia Flyers. “Ask most knowledgeable hockey people, and they’ll tell you that Bruce Craig is the finest young coach around,” said Reydel proudly. “The kids who come to G.A. can’t wait to get tutored under Bruce.” The skeptics say that recruiting fuels the GA. program. Craig said that while he relied on his respected name to get players attracted to GA, he had yet to physically recruit a player. “Since I’m not connected with the school in any way, I really don’t have any jurisdiction to recruit,” said Craig. “I do try to get my name in the area as much as possible though, and the fact that I attend many clinics has something to do with that. A kid will see me at a particular clinic and approach me about GA Once I give him the information, it’s out of my hands. “When you get the players, the job becomes much easier,” Craig said. “Most hockey teams are lucky to get five good players. We’re fortunate in that we have at least nine or 10.” Craig, a 1975 graduate of Penn’s Wharton School, holds a full-time job in the university’s budget analysis department. He estimates that more than 50 percent of his spare time is spent on hockey-related activities. On Monday, he’s up at 4:30 am. to supervise a 6 o’clock optional Germantown Academy practice attended primarily by the younger players who don’t get much ice time. All this leads a person to ask Craig the reasonable question: Why? “Because I love it,” he replied. “People ask me if I’m nuts getting up for that early practice, but just to see the slightest improvement in those young guys keeps me going. I was fortunate enough to grow up with constant frozen ponds where I could better develop any hockey skills. These kids don’t.”
CREDIT: The Philadelphia Inquirer