MU, WVU rivalry goes from pigskin to pucks
HUNTINGTON — Who knows how long it will be before Marshall University and West Virginia University fans see their beloved sports programs come together again on a football field.
But fans can watch the rivalry between the kelly green and gold and blue this weekend on ice, as, for the first time, Marshall and West Virginia University are hooking up in hockey.
The Thundering Herd’s club ice hockey team, in its third year of existence, will host one of two West Virginia club teams for its season opener 2 p.m., Sunday, in the South Charleston Ice Arena. Tickets are $5.
“I’m a Marshall graduate, so I’m well aware of the dynamics between WVU and Marshall,” said MU hockey coach Bill Durstein. “I cannot express how excited our entire team is. For me, personally, it’s very gratifying to have the opportunity to even be on the ice with W V U.
“It means even more to me as a Marshall grad and having to sit through all the years of Marshall being looked at like a little brother to West Virginia.” Neither school has an official university hockey team, but while Marshall is just taking its first steps with hockey as a club sport, West Virginia has had a club team for the past 20 years.
In fact, the school has two club teams – an upper-tier program comprised mostly of players who have played travel hockey since they were kids, and a secondary club made up of strong but somewhat less experienced players.
It’s the secondary squad that Marshall will be facing.
“They’re still going to have some very good players who are playing against us Sunday,” Durstein said.
A 1985 Marshall grad, Durstein grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., and played hockey until he was about 16.
A surgical supply salesman by trade, he got back into the sport when the Huntington Blizzard of the East Coast Hockey League was established in the early 1990s. The coach worked with some of the Blizzard’s youth hockey prog ra ms.
The Blizzard is long gone, but Durstein still plays pick-up hockey at the South Charleston rink, and got to know some of the Marshall players, who asked him to be their coach last season.
“We have goals in the program to move it forward in terms of experience level, talent, funding and organization,” Durstein said. “Right now, we are completely self-sustained, and my kids make a tremendous commitment driving up to South Charleston twice a week to practice.” The team also has to play most of its games late at night, dropping the puck often as late as 10 p.m., because the rink is open to the public for most of the day.
Marshall has scheduled 20 games for this season, the most it has had so far.
“We really want to grow our club and get it on par with programs like WVU and Ohio University,” Durstein said. “Those are two schools who have wellestablished club hockey.” The coach said he’s hoping for a big turnout Sunday.
“We’re hoping to get 400 to 500 people out there,” he said.