What's 50 Grand Among Friends?

On January 30, 2011

  • Local businessman Tunney Murchie made a generous $50,000 donation to the Ice Hockey club team at his company in Clarence, NY. Alex McCrossen /// The Spectrum

The men's ice hockey club team does not usually get the attention that it deserves on campus; however, the $50,000 check that it just received suggests that at least one person knows that the club exists.

That person is Hamilton, On. native Tunney Murchie.

Murchie is the owner and president of Lackawanna Products Corporation as well as a UB alumnus. On Thursday evening, the local business tycoon made a generous donation that will help the ice hockey team expand in years to come.

"It's obviously a great thing," said club president Kenneth Wojnowski. "It's going to help us a lot with next year. We can expand our schedule. We're hoping to take a trip to central Oklahoma next year. So it will help a lot with travel and hotel fees."

Murchie played for the Bulls when the team skated at the Division I level in the early 1970s. Since he graduated in 1975, Murchie has maintained a close relationship with the university.

This is not the first donation that Murchie has made to Buffalo athletics. Early last year, he donated $220,000 to the athletic department to name Alumni Arena's newly renovated triple gym after longtime UB faculty member and former head coach of the Bulls' ice hockey team Edward L. Wright.

Wright recruited Murchie out of Ontario to play for the Bulls in 1971. He was the sport's first and only full-time head coach from 1970 until 1982. Although he is no longer directly associated with the club, his name is still synonymous with ice hockey at the university.

He was one of the people invited to the donation ceremony, which was held at Murchie's company in Clarence, N.Y. Wright emphasized the spirit that permeates Buffalo's athletics. He talked about the effect it had on Murchie as the reason for his support.

"[Murchie] came to [the university] and managed to take advantage of the situation here when the only thing we had for scholarships was a foreign student tuition waiver," Wright said. "This isn't the first time he's donated to the club team. He's been a benefactor and has given money and support to the hockey program for many years. His love of the situation at [Buffalo] and what it's done for him is quite evident."

The donation made by Murchie will go a long way in helping the club as it moves forward, but the sizeable contribution makes one wonder how far the team can actually go.

It was not that long ago that the team competed as a Division I varsity team. The Bulls have held club status since 1988. The hockey club has experienced success at its current level, but the amount of support that exists behind it begs the question, "Why not DI?"

The club's website claims that the group's overall goal is to restore the team to its rightful place on the Division I level. That sentiment is echoed by those associated with the club.

"[Moving back into Division I] is definitely a possibility," Wojnowski said. "It would be great for the school to get a hockey team because we are so close to Canada. We would be able to recruit Canadians. I can definitely see it happening in the near future."

Wojnowski does admit that even if the club could find the financial support to grow, it would take some time to develop the team enough to compete at the next level. The first step toward a move, of course, would be to secure the hefty fiscal commitment that comes with a varsity hockey team, because it is very likely that the team would need a new home.

"The key factor right now is financial," Wright said. "If [varsity hockey] were to come back now it would be a serious commitment because a facility is the number one [concern]…I don't think the [Northtown Center] would be ideal for Division I hockey."

It seems that the road to Division I hockey returning to UB is a long one. As long as there are people like Tunney Murchie in the community, however, there may come a day when we see the Bulls regain their former place in Buffalo athletics.

E-mail: sports@ubspectrum.com

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