Video focuses on Liberty Hockey's three decades of growth
April 6, 2017 | Lynchburg, Va.
In this "Then and Now" video feature, Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) hockey sideline reporter Monika McKenzie takes a look at the 33-year history of Liberty University Hockey — and the development of its five ACHA programs (Division I, II, and III men and Division I and II women) — through interviews with current coaches and recent student-athletes.
The program has had three of its five teams reach the ACHA National Championships in each of the past four seasons, with the DI women's team making the Final Four in each of the past five years, capturing the first national championship in Liberty Hockey history in 2015. Liberty's home rink, the LaHaye Ice Center, which opened in 2005-06, was renovated before the start of the 2015-16 season, expanding to 4,000 seats with 10 skybox suites.
"I think the sky is the limit for the opportunities within Liberty Hockey," said Flames DI men's Head Coach Kirk Handy, who has worked with Associate Head Coach Jeff Boettger to take his teams on sports outreaches to Sweden in 2007, Russia in 2009, Latvia in 2013, and China in 2016. "We've seen God's hand on this program since 1984 and it's just been great to see where we've come from and where we are now and the opportunities to see where we're going to head in the future are awesome."
Lady Flames DI women's Head Coach Paul Bloomfield, who formerly coached Handy when he was a player on the men's DII team in the late 1990s, said the program's main emphasis is the academic, athletic, and spiritual development of its players. That focus has reaped rewards both on the ice for the five respective teams as well as in the lives of the players after graduation.
"I think that when people come to Liberty, if they're teachable, they have the right attitude, Liberty's life-transforming, for Christian kids and non-Christian kids," Bloomfield said. "I've just seen so many kids come, who maybe came from Christian families, but their faith became theirs here, and in some ways that's as exciting as kids coming to know the Lord and starting that journey."
Liberty DII men's Head Coach Chris Lowes, who has guided his team to the past two ACHA DII national championship games, expounded on Bloomfield's mission statement.
"The uniqueness of the program is the mission that we have and the chance that young adults in these formative years in their lives — who may be attracted to Liberty because of hockey — get a chance to come and be part of something special and just be around this environment that encourages spiritual growth and encourages them to explore their faith and grow it," Lowes said. "That's ultimately the reason the program exists, is to meet that mission."