Penn State hockey coach Guy Gadowsky is ready for his new home.
The team is moving into the new Pegula Ice Arena when the season starts Oct. 11 against Army. The arena has been under construction for more than a year after an $88 million donation from Terry and Kim Pegula in September 2010.
Gadowsky reflected on some of this thoughts on the new season and new arena.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new Pegula Ice Arena?
A: I just love it. I love it for a number of reasons. One is for our student athletes. It’s fantastic. Its convenient location is great, right in the middle of campus for them, and they’ve really got everything they need to develop themselves into the best athletes and best hockey players they can. It also has a study lounge, so it makes it easy to incorporate the best in academics and the best of athletics. I think it’s perfect.
Another reason is that it’s great for the community. I have two boys that play hockey, and I know there are so many user groups that want more ice and this doubles our ice in State College, which is great for everybody in the community, whether you’re a hockey player of any age, a student that loves to skate, play hockey or figure skate. Everybody is going to love it.
And then probably the biggest thing I’m most excited about is the students. I think they’re just going to love it. The student section is fantastic. As you know, it’s as steep as code will allow, and the band is going to be right in the middle of them. I think they’re just going to have a blast.
Q: What’s some of the feedback you’ve gotten from students? Is the excitement level there for them?
A: I think it is, and it has been that way for a couple years now, ever since the announcement was made by Mr. Pegula. We’ve gotten comments from students that say they can’t wait to see Big Ten hockey, and I think that’s very exciting because there’s a number of students on campus that know what Big Ten hockey means. It really will be the best hockey in the country, and then there’s another group that’s pumped and excited to get into the building and create a tremendous atmosphere. I think that’s probably what I’m most excited about — to see the atmosphere that the students create.
Q: What’s the excitement level with the coaches and players?
A: It has been an extremely high level for two years. This is why we came here, to play and compete in the Big Ten and to do it in a beautiful arena with Penn State pride and passion. It’s just something. That’s the reason we’re all here.
Q: How will the changes help with recruiting?
A: To compete in the Big Ten is definitely an honor, but also you’re competing against the very best that college hockey has. And that’s an honor as well. We will attract student athletes that are hungry to compete at the highest level. That’s what it’s all about.
Q: Does it create more work for the coaching staff?
A: It’s exciting work. Recruiting is hard work no matter how you look at it. In our situation, it’s hard work but a lot of fun work. There are a lot of great things to sell for this tremendous university. A lot of great student athletes and hockey players are just attracted to Penn State in general. The passion of the student body is something that sells itself. And then you throw in the Big Ten and the Pegula Ice Arena. We’ve got a lot of great things going for us.
Q: How has the transition from club hockey to Division I and the new arena gone for everyone involved?
A: Well, it was certainly a transition we knew was happening. We’re all here to compete in the Big Ten and the new Pegula Ice Arena, but at the same time, building a foundation was a job that started from day one. And I think our entire staff and the players we recruited are very well aware of that.
Q: What are your expectations going into the season?
A: We’re still very young and, obviously, competing against the programs in the Big Ten that we are, we’re not looking at expectations in terms of wins and losses. We certainly have very high expectations to continue to build on that foundation and areas that we can control. We have very high expectations about our work ethic, which is on the ice, in the weight room, in the classroom and how we’re going to represent ourselves. That will equate to wins and losses in the future, but we’re not necessarily in a spot right now where we’re going to say this number of wins will make our season a success.
Q: Ultimately, do you think State College and Penn State can be a hockey town?
A: I do. Absolutely. And one of the things I was very pleasantly surprised about when I got here was seeing all the jerseys around. There’s a ton of Flyers jerseys. There’s a ton of Pens jerseys. We’re starting to get Buffalo Sabres jerseys and a lot of Penn State jerseys, too. There’s a greater interest in hockey than I anticipated, which was fantastic. This is a great hockey state, and one of Terry Pegula’s visions was to be a catalyst, to really improve hockey in the Centre County region, and this arena is going to do that. Hockey is just continuing to grow, especially in this region.