Our city makes headlines for its hot, humid weather; yet one organization at the University of Houston doesn’t sweat it. This group works out in one of the coldest spots in town, where every day, the temperatures are well below freezing. You see, the UH Hockey Club has returned competitive ice hockey to Houston for the first time since the Houston Aeros professional team left in 2013.
James Calderone (’24, Sports Administration), president of the club, grew up in Minnesota where hockey is every bit as popular as football and basketball are here at UH. When he arrived in Houston as a sophomore transfer, he was shocked to learn that a school the size of UH didn’t have its own hockey program. Soon, though, he channeled his surprise into determination—determination to bring the sport back to the Cougars.
The fledgling hockey club is classified as a student organization, not a sanctioned sports team; that means there is no Athletic Department funding. “We’re all taking full-time college study loads, and there are no full-ride scholarships to help us along, which makes it challenging to recruit players,” Calderone said. “We rely on donations and sponsorship to support the program. We are a lean organization, yet we’re hopeful that alumni support, combined with student and community involvement, will help us grow.”
The 20-member team practices at The Sugarland Ice and Sports Complex, and this season, the UH Hockey Club has 10 matches slated as the Division II American Collegiate Hockey Association’s season begins.
Despite being a new team, Calderone said that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
Every team must start somewhere, and Calderone expects this one to work hard to bring success. “Step one was to get a team together,” he said. “Winning and earning respect comes with time. We’re investing in UH, and while I may not see the results right away, I can make significant progress while I’m here, setting the team up for success when I hand it off to someone to grow it from here.
“We’re a bunch of guys who want to have fun, and we’re getting better with every game,” Calderone said. “I’d love to see professional hockey here in Houston—and UH could be where it starts.”