Back in 2012, I discovered this game called "pit hockey" that was referenced on a couple of sites. No one seemingly could explain what pit hockey was, however, so I was left with a void in terms of knowing what this game was all about.
I received an email from reader Seth H. who alerted me that he used to be a pit hockey player! He writes,
I played for a year for my dorm team, the Hamilton Headbangers in 1989. Check out page two of this edition of the Stony Brook Press.That's outstanding! Thanks, Seth, for giving me something to work with, and even more thanks for telling me about your team and that you were a pit hockey player! Too cool!
Thanks to Seth's email, I began walking down the path that pointed to SUNY rather than Stony Brook University. Stony Brook Press, "The University Community's Weekly", that Seth linked in his email talked a little about how SUNY ended a great tradition of pit hockey "by planting trees and shrubs throughout the area that was the pit". That article, as seen on the linked piece, is from 1990, so Seth's 1989 Hamilton team was one of the last to play pit hockey at SUNY!
However, like the 2012 article I penned, I'm still no closer to knowing exactly what "pit hockey" is other than some sort of game played at colleges. I continued my journey deeper into the interwebs on the SUNY path. And then I came across this horrible newsprint photo, but one that has a couple of interesting points.
With these questions looming, I discovered a small clip in June 28, 1984 edition of the Stony Brook Press. As seen, SUNY tore up and excavated a pile of G-Quad where the pit hockey pit was located! So we now have a location where the SUNY pit hockey players played their games! Unfortunately, I'm no closer to answering the questions about what pit hockey is.
And then I found it: the pit hockey compendium! The March 7, 1983 edition of the Statesman weekly publication talks extensively about pit hockey! Let's work through this piece by Howie Hershenhorn (great name, by the way).
- 1983 marked the sixth season of pit hockey at SUNY. According to the article, 1976 was the inaugural season. I couldn't find any info on that '76 season, but the fact that a weekly campus paper devoted an entire article to a student-run activity shows the popularity of the sport.
- The league was started by students who wanted to play street hockey like they did at home. So pit hockey is comparable to street hockey in terms of surface and game-play! According to the article, "[p]it hockey, like street hockey, is played on foot using a rubber ball instead of a puck. Most players only wear shin guards and gloves, not many of them wear helmets, or any other protective gear. However, the 'checking' (hitting) is very tough." WOW! Great info!
- The teams are made up of students from all walks of life on campus, and do not have to be affiliated with specific halls or buildings. In other words, any student can play on any team without penalty! Trades and player movement may have happened!
- The league, run by Gary Schatzberg and Wayne Rosenberg, features fourteen teams split into two seven-team conferences. The top-four teams in each conference then advance to the playoffs where a champion would be crowned in a best-of-three championship series. The league runs from March until early-May with each team playing ten regular-season games. Games are scheduled daily with weekday games played at 3:30pm, and weekend games played at 1pm and 3pm! This league sounds highly organized and very well run!
- All games were played in the "pit" in G-Quad. The pit, from what I can gather, is simply a road or paved area that the games were played on, much like a street for street hockey.
- Here's the piece that absolutely blew me away: "Pit hockey, now in its second week, attracts more fans than almost any other Stony Brook sport. There are an estimated 50-150 spectators at every game" A non-university-sanctioned, student-run sport that is basically a collection of students who love street hockey attracted MORE fans than the vast majority of sports featured at Stony Brook?!? Incredible! I'll elaborate more on this below.
If anyone attended SUNY between 1976 and 1990 and was a player and/or fan of the pit hockey games that went on there, please contact me. I want to hear more about this! And thank you, Seth, for pushing me down the path to enlightenment!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!