Thursday, June 2, 2011

Breakout Past: Battista Named New Icers Coach

With all the coach hiring going on around here lately, I thought it might be appropriate to flash back to September 1, 1987 and a pretty significant hire in Penn State's hockey history.

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What I find pretty interesting about that article is how completely unassuming it is. I'm not saying that I expected Collegian writer Dave Sottile to predict where we'd be 25 years later, but one reason I find it fun to look at the past is the ability to observe things as they were while also knowing how they turned out.

Was there any indication that we were bringing in a man who would give his entire adult life to building Penn State hockey, ACHA-style into a better organization than many varsity programs? The guy who would eventually get that elusive varsity status for Penn State (make no mistake about it, there's no Terry Pegula without Joe Battista)? No, not really. As far as anyone knew, we were getting a capable coach, a Penn Stater, experienced for his age, and respected by his players - maybe he'd put in a few seasons before finding something else to do with his life, like so many other ACHA coaches.

Yet here we are. Sure, there was a somewhat inauspicious start with double-digit losses in his first two seasons, but that was followed by a surprise national title in 1990 and five more of them later as Penn State lapped the rest of the ACHA (a few times over) by the early 21st century. Battista ended his coaching career on a run of nine straight ACHA championship game appearances. The wins, losses and ties added up to 512-121-27, but anyone who's been within 100 miles of the program knows that his record is a woefully inadequate way to explain how much he meant to the program during that time. And that's before considering his greatest contribution to Penn State, one that's still in process through his associate athletic director position.

In 25 years, when people go back and read articles about the hirings of Guy Gadowsky and Josh Brandwene, will they be similarly amazed at our obliviousness to the extent of the greatness in our midst? It's hard to think otherwise right now.

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