Hockey program returning to WMA
The Titans shoot.
The Titans score.
Starting in 2021-22, ice hockey will return to Wilbraham & Monson Academy after a 19-year hiatus.
The program will begin as a club sport for boys and girls, with the plan of offering teams at the varsity level in the very near future.
“I was here when we dropped hockey,” explained WMA Head of School Brian Easler. “I know the reasons for it, and they were good reasons at the time. However, honestly, we’ve all been hoping since that day for the time when we could bring hockey back to WMA, and we feel that time is now.
“As an institution, and I mean that from the Board of Trustees down, we couldn’t be more excited to do this. Hockey is a part of our heritage, it’s a part of our history and it’s going to be part of our future.”
Support for hockey at the Academy came instantly following the announcement Feb. 19, with hundreds of alumni and current families reacting on WMA’s various social media platforms.
“The return of ice hockey to the WMA sports program is certainly being greeted with great enthusiasm by so many within our overall community,” Director of Athletics Don Nicholson ’79 said. “It has been very rewarding to also see the reaction from our alumni body as so many former players have communicated with the Academy to let us know of their excitement and to offer their support.”
“Being local, my immediate response was how can I help and how can I give back,” said Bryan Musa ’92, an active local coach, including that of his three daughters. “I built lifelong friendships. I just talked to one of my teammates. Playing hockey at WMA gave me an opportunity to continue to play hockey and to get exposure to play in college.”
WMA won Western New England Prep School Division II hockey titles in 1972-73, 1984-85 and 1985-86. Rick Bennett ’86, the men’s coach at Union College, was named MVP of the 1986 team.
“It was an honor to wear the Wilbraham & Monson Academy hockey jersey,” said Bennett, whose Union team won the NCAA Division I title in 2014. “The program offered a tremendous experience, filled with extraordinary opportunities. I am forever grateful to WMA and to have played with such terrific teammates.”
More than 20 current WMA students have played, or are playing, organized hockey for clubs in the region.
“I thought it was a great idea because it will attract more people to the school since hockey is such a big deal in the area,” Cory Bignell ’24 said. “We can make this work.”
“It’s going to be great for our school to have another program and give our students something else to participate in,” J.J. Fox ’23 added. “I’m excited for it.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the hockey program can attend a webinar Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. EST by emailing Director of Parent Programs Kellie Molander at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A panel discussion during the webinar will include:
· Bill Guerin ’89, Trustee, USA Hockey Hall of Fame, General Manager of the Minnesota Wild
· Barry M. Maloney ’85, Trustee, President of Worcester State University
· Don Nicholson ’79, Director of Athletics at WMA
· Chris Bignell, current parent and co-owner of the Springfield Thunderbirds
· Russ Held, current parent
· Brian P. Easler, Head of School