In a little more than a year, Lackawanna College’s burgeoning athletic department plans to hit the ice.
Starting with the 2020-21 season, Lackawanna will add men’s ice hockey among its 15 varsity sports, athletic director Joya Whittington announced Wednesday at the Revolution Ice Centre in Pittston.
Lackawanna intends to join the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference, Whittington said. It has also applied for membership in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the national governing body of varsity and club level college ice hockey in the United States.
An idea that developed six months ago when school officials visited Revolution to discuss options became a reality when the Falcons hired longtime area hockey coach Don Tweedy to be the program’s coach.
“For us, we know how competitive we can be, and we know how competitive this sport is,” Whittington said. “We’re looking for a sport where we can bring in solid recruits and be extremely competitive. We know this area and the (New) Jersey area is known for hockey. It’s an exciting add. It’s a fun sport to watch, and our college community is extremely excited about it.”
Lackawanna will play its home games at Revolution, a fact in which Tweedy takes more than a little bit of pride. After all, he was an instrumental force in getting that facility built in the late 1990s.
A New York native who moved to the area in 1991, Tweedy was instrumental in building area hockey at the youth level. He served the community as an official and a youth coach, and only the rarest of young hockey players born in the region haven’t benefited from a lesson or two from Tweedy, anywhere from Wilkes-Barre’s Coal Street Park to Revolution. He started the Pocono Pirates youth program and was an asset to many others over the last several decades.
Tweedy has experience coaching at the collegiate level, leading the University of Scranton’s NCAA and ACHA teams with Bill Fitzgerald in 2000 and 2001. However, Lackawanna provided him a unique opportunity, he said, to build a college-level program from the ground up.
“I’m looking forward to the recruiting,” Tweedy smiled. “With the University of Scranton, I went out and recruited, but the reputation the University of Scranton has, you have a lot of kids coming in, from Long Island, Philadelphia that have that knowledge of the game and have playing experience. Here, I’ve got to sell the Lackawanna program and myself, which I’m looking forward to. I love doing things like that.”
Tweedy plans to recruit the developing hockey hotbeds in New Jersey and Philadelphia, expanding into Harrisburg and points south, like York.
“I also plan to hit this area, but you’ve got to get outside this area and offer opportunities for kids to come into this area and see what Lackawanna and Luzerne counties offer,” he said. “Hockey here has grown leaps and bounds since I’ve been involved in it. I can see 10 to 12 kids looking at Lackawanna over the course of the next two years, looking at Lackawanna and playing here.”
The next step for Lackawanna is recruiting, Whittington pointed out. Part of the reason Lackawanna’s announcement came so far ahead of September 2020, when the season kicks off for ACHA teams, is so Tweedy can start putting together a staff and a team.
Once that happens, Lackawanna will await word on acceptance into the ACHA. Tweedy said the school would likely pursue games against fellow members and local teams like Bloomsburg, East Stroudsburg and the University of Scranton.
“We know this is a great area for hockey, and we found a market we don’t have,” Whittington said. “It’s another opportunity for a student athlete
to come in, get their academics straight at Lackawanna College, and participate in a sport.”