By: Alex Howell
NCAA Division III athletes endure some of the most rigorous challenges in terms of balancing a full school load, while also managing their hectic practice and game schedules. With scheduling, academics, and physical pressure looming, student athletes often report more stress than non-athletes. Student athlete life can be stressful enough, but according to the Athletic Insight study, student athletes reported higher than usual stress in several variables, including: having a lot of responsibilities, not getting enough time for sleep, and having demanding extracurricular activities. With that in mind, many often overlook athletics, especially ice hockey, at the club level. Even though they are required to meet similar academic requirements, while conquering similar practice schedules, club athletes may be discounted. At Christopher Newport University, the CNU Men’s Ice Hockey team may not be recognized as a NCAA program, but the fans and the players sure do treat it like it is. CNU Ice Hockey’s die-hard fan, Jaxn Lane, stated “ The ice hockey program that has developed in my time as a CNU Captain is simply unbelievable, it would be awesome if they could be actually recognized as a varsity sport here on campus. They play at such a high level and I’ve seen the rink with 500 fans cheering on the Captains.” The CNU Ice Hockey Team competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s (ACHA) Division 3. The club also competes in the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference’s (BRHC) top division. Within the ice program at Christopher Newport lies 5th year senior, Shane Kehl.
In the fall of 2010, Shane played travel ice hockey for one of Virginia’s most renowned hockey programs and he knew he wanted to play hockey at the collegiate level. Shane was in a position that most high school seniors were also in. It was time to fill out college applications, but unlike most Shane didn’t have his heart set on a specific university. Shane filled out applications to a good portion of the universities across the state in hopes that one would feel like home.
“I didn’t even hear about CNU until I met Bryce Evason, whose dad worked with my dad at the Washington Capitals, my senior year of high school and he invited me to the recruit game they have once a year. I went and really liked the school along with the hockey program. After my visit and game with current and prospective CNU players I decided that this was the school for me and once I got my acceptance letter I knew that’s where I would be going.”
On average, 55 percent of CNU’s undergraduate students graduate within the four-year plan. As noted, Shane was not part of that 55 percent. Shane didn’t stay an extra year because he took his courses lightly and had to retake a few classes. Like most, Shane really struggled finally deciding which major he wanted to graduate Christopher Newport with. Shane took courses in several departments and finally decided to become a Communications major after his second semester his sophomore year. At this point, Shane knew he would be here longer than the intended four years, but Shane didn’t hang his head, he embraced it. Shane knew that with this opportunity to stay for one extra year he would be able to add an extra minor, while skating for the CNU Ice Hockey team for one more season. Unlike most collegiate sports, Division III athletes are eligible for ten semesters in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
“I was a fifth-year-senior this year and I am thrilled that I had the opportunity to play for all five years. Being the oldest guy on the team definitely led me into some jokes about my age and intelligence, as to why I couldn’t graduate in four years, but I stayed in order to finish my major, which a selected later than most and to double minor in something that I am very passionate about, which is Entrepreneurship. ”
As mentioned, CNU’s ice hockey program plays many SEC Division I schools, so the travel can get hectic for the players at times. Shane stated that the Christopher Newport Ice Hockey team practices four days a week. The team has off ice practice on Monday Wednesdays, while also partaking in early morning practices on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The team typically plays games on Fridays, Saturday, or Sundays, if not all three. Essentially, they’re either practicing or playing a game everyday of the week. Shane stated that typically a normal week is easily manageable, but there are typically a few weeks a semester were he gets overwhelmed.
“The biggest thing for hockey is the travel, whether it’s in college or high school. I have missed countless days of class over the years because of long road trips for games. Missing class requires catch-up work rescheduling assignments and quizzes, which is a burden for the athlete as well as the professor. Some professors make life a little easier than others when it comes to missing class, but others don’t really have any sympathy for student athletes.”
Shane was very modest when discussing his personal success in the previous season, but Shane had a season for the record books and the ice hockey team was more than happy he was able to come back for a fifth year The 2015-2016 season was Shane’s last year at CNU, and thus as a member of the hockey team. He ended the season back in February with 64 points, 32 goals and 32 assists, in 19 games and won MVP of the Blue Ridge Hockey Conference. Shane was also asked to return to the BRHC All-Star Challenge along with a select few of his teammates. In 2014 Shane was selected to go to the All-Star challenge and represent his conference as high scoring forward.
“It was a great experience being on a team with guys that you battle against all year and at the very end come together and play against other conferences from around the United States. The overall atmosphere of the games were astounding, everyone there was a skilled player just looking to play a little more hockey and have a little more fun, and that’s what made it so enjoyable.”
“This was by far my best season as a CNU Captain and winning Conference MVP was such a surreal achievement for me. Since I started playing for CNU my freshman year I have never missed a practice or game in the past five years and I think that was rewarded by the great season that I had. That being said, I couldn’t have done it without the incredible players I played with and the tremendous coaching I received during my time at CNU. Being on a sports team of any sort will always bring someone very close to the rest of their teammates and form a different type of bond than with other friends. I’ve always said that hockey players have the weirdest relationships with each other because we have a bond on a level that is unmatched, in my opinion, when compared with other sports.”