1980 – 1984

In January of 1980 Auburn’s hockey program was born. The team was initially formed to compete against ┬áthe University of Alabama in an exhibition game to be played preceding a Birmingham Bulls game. Auburn’s hockey birth was unpolished, by the Tigers belted the University of Alabama, 5-0 in their boisterous inaugural game before 10,000 exuberant fans at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center. In the weeks prior to the Tiger-Tide battle, Auburn’s first icemen realized that several of the team’s members were capable of playing collegiate hockey. This prompted player-coach Emory Stapleton to schedule more contests against established teams in the southeast. Auburn went to to prove themselves as a competitive hockey team sport a respectable 4-2 record. A team began to emerge from the group. Emory Stapleton, one of the original group, contacted the Southern Collegiate Hockey Association that summer and persuaded them to admit Auburn as a full member school for the 1980-1981 season.

 

Exactly one week before the start of that season, Coach Tom Steinfatt, who played undergraduate hockey at Michigan State, took over the reins of the team which had been practicing together for a month. The start of league play was rocky as the ice tigers skated to an 0-5 record in the first weeks of play. But on Nov. 9, Auburn recorded it first SCHA win, a triumph over Emory. A champagne celebration followed in the locker room. Auburn continued to improve throughout the season and despite the five early season losses and a 1-9 record at Christmas, it finished the season with a 10-15-1 record, 8-15-1 in league play. The highlight of the non-league season was a 6-0 win over Alabama in front of 7,000 Bulls fans at the Birmingham Civic Center on Jan 30, 1981.

 

The Auburn University hockey club continued to have a strong recruiting class going into the 1982-1983 season, predominately from the states of Connecticut, Michigan and New York. Led by Coach Tom Steinfatt and captain John Nordness, the team finished the season with a 12-1-1 record in league play and won their first Southern Collegiate Hockey League(SCHL) championship in 1983 against the University of Tennessee after a spectacular wrist shot goal made in overtime by Connecticut native, Bobby Cowles. This earned Auburn an invite to the 1983 U.S. National Club Ice Hockey Tournament in Huntsville, AL. The Auburn Tigers lost to the University of Arizona and the UAH Chargers of Huntsville who eventually beat Penn St 5-4 to win the championship.

Player/coach George Gendron, managed the team from 1983-1984 as they faced adversaries like Emory and Georgia State. The team battled their way to another SCHL championship game losing to Georgia State in Atlanta by one goal in the final seconds of the third period. This season sadly ended the hockey team organization until the year of 2010.