In one of its final home games of the first semester, the NC State Icepack showed the fans its long-awaited alternate third jersey in action, a red primary with off-white accents, in a 5-1 win over another former Big Four team, Wake Forest, Nov. 15.
The jersey was part of NC State men’s club hockey’s Heritage Day, in which it honored a few of the teams founding members all the way back from 1976.
In the fall of 1976, founders Richard Jordan, Phil Segal, Gordie Feathers and Richard Jarrell established the NC State men’s club hockey team, setting the stage for the Icepack team we see today.
“We started when I was a sophomore and that was the ‘76-’77 season,” said Richard Jordan who came down from his home in Minnesota for the game last Friday. “I started thinking about it freshman year, second semester, when I found out there was such a thing as ACC hockey. Found out Wake Forest had a team, UNC, Virginia and I got to thinking ‘Why don’t we have a team?’”
Since then, NC State has become one of the best collegiate teams in the area. It wasn’t known as the Icepack back then though. When it was founded, the team went by a different, but equally clever name: the Wolfpuck.
“We also only had a single jersey back when we started,” said Doug Goldstein who played goalie for the Wolfpuck starting in 1977. “We just wore shirts, that’s it. No matching uniforms like they have today.”
The new jerseys were designed by Icepack team member Eric Todd, a third-year in business administration and arts entrepreneurship, and freelance graphic designer.
“We had been talking about doing red jerseys for a while and we had to figure out a way to make it our own,” Todd said. “When I looked up inspiration, I saw a lot of throwback jerseys and I liked those because I felt like right now we are entering a new era with the team, we are going to nationals, we’re doing big things. I felt like honoring the past and incorporating that into the jersey was pretty important.”
Part of the history involved a constant struggle to find ice time. With no ice in Raleigh, the Wolfpuck had to travel all the way to Greensboro in its first two years, and then Hillsborough for a while.
“It was a two-hour drive before and then a 45-minute drive just to practice and have games,” Goldstein said. “We had to bribe students to come to games.”
“We would advertise in the paper or anywhere we could, just trying to get attention because hockey in the Carolinas wasn’t anything like it is today,” Jordan followed up. “So, one time we had a keg of beer that we got permission to bring into the arena in Hillsborough and we offered free beer to any Wolfpack fans, of course, the drinking age was 18 back then. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do.”
Recounting some of their favorite memories from their years on the team, Jordan started off with a particular game against another Big Four rival.
“The first year, we had a goalie, who was a pretty big grad student and our only one at the time,” Jordan said. “We were playing Duke, and the goalie helmets in those days were the masks with the little holes in them not with the bars like today. Well, he got cut right above his eye after a puck hit him in the mask.”
“He was bleeding like a stuck pig out there on the ice, so a kid from Duke, who we found out later was a pre-med student, came skating over with his little black doctor’s bag and stitched him up and we continued the game. When it happened, we were up by a couple goals, but by the end, we lost by double-digits because only having one eye doesn’t work too well for a goalie.”
For Goldstein, the best memories were the ones shared by most other NC State fans, the besting of long-time rival UNC.
“The couple of times we beat Carolina were always a lot of fun,” Goldstein said. “We did it in the shootout one time, which was cool for me, and I think we only beat them one other time because they were always the best team in the league back then.”
In the ‘70s, the teams in the area and ACC were known as the Big Four: UNC, Wake Forest, Duke and NC State. However, another playing option the Wolfpuck found was the soldiers at Fort Bragg.
“We played Fort Bragg once and that wasn’t one of our best decisions,” Jordan said. “We got killed because all these Army guys wanted to beat the smart college kids and the refs were Army guys also, so that didn’t work too well. We never did that again.”
While some decisions created remorse, the idea to start a club hockey team is one they have never regretted.
“It’s incredible what this has become,” Goldstein said. “Like I said, we had just the one jersey, no matching uniforms and we paid for everything on our own. Now they have names over their lockers, three jerseys, helmets and three coaches. We didn’t even have a coach for the first years.”
It’s safe to say the founders never expected what the team would become or the following and support it would garner over the years, but it has truly developed into one of the richest NC State sports clubs.