As the NHL season quickly approaches, many hockey fans are chomping at the bit to get back into their local arena to catch their first hockey game of the season. Here in Nashville, hockey has already started. There is excitement brewing on West End and I’m not talking about James Franklin’s team. The Vanderbilt Club Hockey team is excited for the upcoming year and with good reason.
Many would say the Commodores had a down season in 2012-13, finishing with a 9-12 regular season record. Head Coach Thomas Bernstein doesn’t see it that way, “I think last year was a bit of a transition year for us. We lost a tremendous group of not just players, but leaders. We had some great guys that came in, but we were sort of a team in transition.”
If the Black and Gold game is any indicator, the 2013-14 season looks promising to say the least. The team is talented on both ends of the ice. They return a very good, core group of veteran leadership and welcome in a tremendously talented freshman class.
The returning players will be instrumental in the team’s success this season. Coach Bernstein expects the returning players to “provide leadership and the connection of the culture that we’ve been establishing. We’ve tried to build a culture of continuous improvement and of raising the bar in terms of making this thing big and exciting. Something they want to be a part of and something that the community wants to be behind.”
When asked about the talent level of the incoming freshman, Coach Bernstein said, “I’m not exaggerating. The talent level is off the charts with this freshman class. We’ve got, I think, guys who have won state championships in five different states.” He went on to say, “And these guys weren’t just along for the ride. They were, in many cases, captains of those teams.”
Vandy travels to South Carolina for two games against the Gamecocks and one against the Clemson Tigers this weekend. As with any early road trip for any team, Coach Bernstein hopes to build some team cohesion on their first trip of the season. “It’s great to get the boys off campus together. They’re eating together. They’re sleeping four guys to a room for cost’s sake, which really does a lot for bonding. In many cases they are really meeting one another for the first time. They may have a chat on the bench or in the locker room, but not like when you’re driving nine hours, exhausted, on a bus then hauling up to Clemson and then back to South Carolina. That’s quite an experience. Especially if we’re able to pop in a Vandy football game against South Carolina on the trip, I think that would be icing on the cake of what will be a great bonding experience.”
If you’re a Predators fan excited to get back into Bridgestone Arena to watch come hockey, let me invite you to A-Game Sportsplex in Franklin to watch Vandy. If you cannot make the season home opener on September 20, at 8:30 pm, I encourage you to check out their season schedule to find a game to attend. The Commodores have the ingredients for what could be a very special season.
Photos courtesy of Conner “Kiddo” Laws