This chronicle is a biographical construct from various archived personal newspaper interviews and personal accounts from Larry Wheatley’s career as head coach of the Pennridge Rams Ice Hockey Team.

By Ross Porubski
Youth Hockey Info

The Pennridge Rams of today are a Suburban League powerhouse, consistently competing in the postseason year after year, and a perennial staple in the Class AA Flyers Cup Tournament. Think if you will, if it weren’t for Larry Wheatley wanting to bring competitive ice hockey to Pennridge, where would this program be today, if at all? Playing devil’s advocate we can assume there may have been someone else but it is Wheatley who we can confirm is the architect that got this program up and running, or skating, however you look at it.

How it all got started

In 1990, Wheatley had been playing ice hockey for 14 years, a Sellersville resident, he coached young hockey players since 1980. Because of the stigma often associated with the sport and its players, Larry wanted people to know something about them, too. They’re not goons-in-training. His objective is plain and simple, “We’re out to build men,” Wheatley said, “Not destroy minds.” Wheatley, who coached junior and mite leagues, was two years into his biggest undertaking at the point of this interview in 1992. He was the head coach of the Pennridge Hockey Team, which played in the Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League. Wheatley was among a group of hockey enthusiasts who formed the LVSHL, (Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League) over thirty years ago to fill the void of competitive ice hockey at the scholastic level. Two years in, enrollment picked up from eight to ten teams, and Wheatley was hopeful for more growth in the future. The teams were rostered with players from area high schools, though the schools did not offer financial support or sponsorship. Five of those teams were “pure,” or rostered all their players from the area school. Pennridge was one of the league’s “pure” teams. The other teams, those which did not have enough interest to fill an entire team, drafted players from a pool at the beginning of the season. Wheatley, who was also president of the league, said he had hoped the LVSHL would become one hundred percent “pure” in future seasons.

The program took root in its maiden season, “Spring League” 1990, a trial run under head coach, Brian Irvin. Prior to this, Pennridge was not part of any league but they were playing against other schools during the winter (non-league/scrims). When it was obvious the interest was there the founding board members, Mr. Hambleton (president) and Mr. Hosgood (treasurer). Senior players Dan Brown, and Steve Graber and Bill Cook reached out to Wheatley to replace Brian Irvin, the team’s first coach behind the bench as they headed into their first full competitive season as a legitimate Varsity team. Pennridge did well and made it to the LVSHL finals where they lost to Emmaus. Now that a foundation had been laid down with the board and team seeing the success it was easier to get interest, especially from the older players who had siblings and cousins already playing for local clubs (Lazers, Glaciers).

Why the LVSHL?

“We formed the league because basically most of us were tired of having our kids playing club hockey,” Wheatley said. “Plus, there’s more camaraderie playing for their school and with classmates, than with kids they don’t know.” Since the schools do not provide financing, parents and players foot the bills, which can be hefty. Wheatley said the average player spends about $750 for league fees and equipment, and that goalkeepers can spend as much as $1,500. Fundraisers and an equipment-recycling program help defer those costs somewhat. Wheatley added that he doesn’t see the schools offering aid in the near future, partly because of the expense and partly because of the stigma. Originally the Pennridge School District denied the use of the name or any association with the team “Rams” name or logo. Through private talks, the school district board changed its mind. The biggest thing with the schools is fear,” he said. “All a lot of people know about hockey is fights. If they would just come to our games, they would see we’re not about fighting.” Wheatley said that is especially true of the Pennridge team. He said he liked pointing out that Shannon Moyer, one of the team’s leading players last year, graduated third in his class and now is moved to Penn State to further his education.

Members of 91-92 Pennridge varsity are top row (from left) head coach Larry Wheatley, Sean Boyle. Matt Drozd, Alan Desris, Josh Swartley, Jim Hosgood, Doug Tenley, Mike Poulicakos, President. Jay Hambleton; middle, Dan Lanzetta, Mike Wheatley, Travis Hambleton, Brian Zinn; bottom, John Patenaude, Erik Smith, Scott Rhodes, Brad Hambleton, Jason Boyne, Jason Fisher, Mike Gumert.

Although not the first coach of the club, Larry Wheatley is the program’s first officially recognized coach credited with helping make the program what it has become in the present day. Wheatley coached the first six seasons for Pennridge from 1990-1995. He left to coach Lafayette College and then Bryn Athyn, both in the DVCHC, before returning to Pennridge after their SHSHL championship for the 2009-2013 winter seasons.

Wheatley’s years at the helm spanned several years in 3 different decades.

The first six seasons were in the LVSHL
His second run was in SHSHL
Stepped away in 2013-2014
Then returned in 2014-2015 & 2015-2016

Historical content credit
  • Fran Blinesbury | Doylestown Daily Intelligencer
  • Mike Gibson | Doylestown Intelligencer
  • Gary Miles | Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Tim Panaccio | Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Scott Huff | Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Rick O’Brien | Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Germantown Academy Alumni
  • PRISM Sports
  • Suburban Cable Sports