UB hockey captain Anthony Coty was five and a half hours into the drive to Rutgers University from Buffalo when he pulled the van over and told his assistant coach that he needed a break from driving.
The long hours on the road were getting to him, and if he didn’t take a break, the mental exhaustion from driving would hinder his performance in the team’s first game.
Coty wasn’t supposed to be driving himself to another state, but the morning of Feb. 16, the Student Association canceled the Grand Tour bus that was supposed to take the team to Rutgers. The team made a payment of $21,300 to SA on Jan. 31, but it wasn’t put into their account until the afternoon of Feb. 16, the day before the Rutgers trip, according to Ryan Kelly, the team’s treasurer.
According to the team, because SA had not put the money into the team’s account, the bus was canceled. This led to the team scrambling to make travel arrangements to New Jersey.
“It’s a really big difference between just being able to relax the whole trip then having your mind focused on driving with all your teammates in the backseat just like a bunch of lives at risk,” Coty, a sophomore communication major, said. “So yeah it does take a toll on you.”
In the league the hockey club plays in, most other teams have group transportation via a bus.
Morgan vonHedemann, now in his seventh year as a part of the team, volunteers 30-40 hours a week as the team’s head coach. He has been a player, an e-board member and team captain before being named head coach this season.
VonHedemann rented two vans and a U-Haul, totalling $1,400 — before the cost of gas and tolls, after the SA canceled the team’s bus the day before their scheduled departure.
VonHedemann doesn’t expect the SA to reimburse him for the $1,400 he spent on the team’s transportation.
Under the Encumbrance and Expenditure Policy, the SA will only reimburse individuals for “goods or services that cannot be comparably purchased using a PO [purchase order] or one of SA’s Accounts.” The team had originally tried to pay for the bus with a PO but were left with no choice other than paying out of pocket after the SA canceled their bus payment.
Canceling games was never an option either. Anthony Trigilio, a junior communication major and president of the club, says that if the team cancels games, they could be fined or even risk ejection from the league. He said SA was aware of these consequences.
The team also didn’t have a hotel booked for their trip to Rutgers, which SA is responsible for doing. The team is supposed to send hotel options to SA (which they did), and the SA’s travel agent books the hotel.
But a hotel wasn’t booked until the day the team was traveling because the money was not in the team’s account. The hockey club was about three-fourths of the way to Rutgers when SA confirmed there was a hotel waiting for them. VonHedemann was expecting to pay out of pocket for the hotel because he was unsure if the SA would go through with booking the rooms. “We [the e-board] and coaches were the only people that knew we didn’t have a hotel yet. So we had to keep it quiet,” Coty said. “The whole half of the ride [we were] checking in and calling SA. My van called SA six times to see when the hotel was ready.”
The team had issues with SA last semester, too. In December 2022, the men’s hockey e-board had a hearing with SA after they were fined $872.50 for skating on Northtown Center’s ice before the requested funds to rent the rink had been approved. They were fined an additional $3,325 for not paying the referees before the games, according to Kelly, a junior business major.
The team’s budget for the year is approximately $100,000 but they only receive $14,000 from the SA. Each member of the team pays about $3,000 out of pocket.
Kelly shared a summary of the hearing with The Spectrum which said that the team gets a quote at the end of the season for what they owe referees. SA requires that they make requests for the money needed to pay the referees before the games, which doesn’t align with what the referee association does.
The team also received warnings for having equipment, such as jerseys, ordered to vonHedemann’s home, rather than the Student Union, and for hiring a trainer for a game before requesting the money to pay them. Coaches had also been volunteering without submitting the Volunteer Agreement forms.
According to the hockey club, SA told them the jerseys that were sent to vonHedeman were a violation of SA’s ticketing and merchandise policy. In response to this violation, Kelly wrote that the jerseys ordered from Verbero were ordered by a pro-staff member from SA and that the team’s e-board did not tell Verbero to ship the jersey’s to vonHedemann’s house. He also wrote that the hockey club’s e-board was “not allowed to be involved in the ordering process,” but the team was still punished.
Kelly appealed the fines at the Feb. 6 SA Senate Meeting. SA did not appeal the fine that evening.
A spokesperson for the SA declined to comment because the hockey team’s case is still in the appeal process.
Kelly said that SA told him at the senate meeting that there was no process to appeal fines. They were told to apply for supplemental funding from SA and that SA will review a possible policy to have fines be appealed. As far as Kelly knows, their fine is not under appeal.
“Due to a mistake, the club is being punished with an approximately $4,000 fine,” Kelly wrote. “That is very unfair and unjust. That is college students’ hard-earned money being taken from an organization that claims to be for the students and by the students.”
The team also had trouble with receiving their uniforms. As a requirement for their league, the team has to be wearing matching uniforms and have matching equipment, according to vonHedemann. This year, vonHedemann told SA what sizes and quantities of equipment they needed. SA told them the players had to all individually purchase all their equipment through the university, which caused the process to take longer.
The team didn’t receive their uniforms or equipment until January, which is halfway through the season. VonHedemann said the team can get fined from the league for not all being in uniform.
“It’s embarrassing to UB that we have kids that look like garbage cans on the ice,” Coty said.
Men’s ice hockey plays as a part of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League (NECHL). VonHedemann said he feels like SA doesn’t understand the competitive nature of this league.
“You look at ACHA and they are beating NCAA D1 teams and D3 teams left right and center,” vonHedemann said. “It’s not just a club sport. It’s a little bit more for these guys.”
VonHedemann said that he gets 30 to 40 emails a week of future college athletes wanting to come play for the team. He has students from Europe who have reached out to him wanting to play here next year.
But he says the power struggle with SA is harming the UB hockey program.
“I’m losing kids because they see what’s going on,” vonHedemann said. “They see that we’re not taking buses, they see we don’t look like a team on the ice… as someone that’s been a part of the program and just watching it utterly fall apart because of [what] SA is doing to us, it’s just so hard to watch.”
Amy Maslin is a sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com