BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)– Men’s club hockey is returning to the South Dakota State University campus for the first time in four years.

SDSU Jackrabbit jerseys are taking to the ice in Brookings as club hockey makes it’s return to the university this year. For many players, this is the first time they have played competitive hockey for years.

“Hockey has been such a big part of my life and it’s been just a lot of fun to get out on the ice, see the guys, meet new people, and just enjoy the game a little bit more,” said Matt Maag, club treasurer.

“A lot of people haven’t been on the ice since high school and that means a lot to them because it was their sport growing up and to be able to play it in college means a lot to them,” said Wyatt Hanson, club president.

“Coming from Minnesota, it makes me really happy that you know in South Dakota that there are still a lot of people who want to grow the game of hockey so it’s awesome really,” said Quintin Steindl, club vice president.

The last club hockey season at SDSU was in 2018-2019, so it took some work to get the club started up again.

“I was a freshman last year and me and my roommate we wanted to get it going last year, but we ran into some paperwork problems, so it got postponed to spring, then summer break came in and we didn’t get much forward, then this fall semester we actually met some people who were starting the group up and we decided we really want to make this thing go, we want to take it far, so we met up collectively and met a lot and were able to push it through the student association, different meetings and I mean here we are now, getting practices in the fall,” said Hanson.

Adding a new club to the campus and providing another sport option for students.

“Student organizations are a great way to foster the community here at SDSU. Currently, we have around 250 clubs on campus, so there’s a lot of opportunities and possibilities to get involved and find interests and you know, these sport clubs are a great example of ways to continue to be involved and find that community as well,” said Blake Pulse, SDSU student association president.

“It really brings in, you know you meet new people that you wouldn’t have outside of your major. You get a bond, a team bond, that you haven’t had say since high school when you last played,” said Hanson. “And being able to have the exercise weekly, I know a lot of people still go to the gym, but it’s nice to have that fun exercise built in.”

In just a few months, they have had around 34 members join the club, but they are hoping to see that number continue to increase.

“I was really happy,” said Hanson. “We started out with about 15 guys and then you know it pretty much doubled over a month and then we got a lot more guys after that. It really means a lot because it shows a lot of people have interest in the club and it’s not something that’s probably going to go away after a year, it’s here to stay for a while.”

Even though it is not a D1 sport at SDSU yet, the team will still compete against other universities.

“We are going to be under the ACHA, which is the American Collegiate Hockey Association, so we are going to be playing other colleges in our division and then out of our division. So in our division it would be like NDSU’s club team, Winona state’s club team, Dordt, Creighton, teams like that, so we will be traveling all over,” said Hanson.

Getting Jackrabbit skates back on the ice.

“It’s been a popular thing in the past and so when you take something away that is popular in the past, then there’s kind of a hole left there, so I think there has always been a need there for a higher level of hockey just past the Brookings Rangers,” said Steindl.

“Everybody comes out with a smile on their face, they love it. It’s been a long time since a lot of us have been able to play competitive hockey, since high school, so it’s a really cool feeling to get back on the ice,” said Maag.

“Really just being on the ice with everybody. I know the first few practices we just did scrimmages, I mean that was really fun as it is, just being on the ice playing with your friends again,” said Hanson.

The team hopes to get in some scrimmages with other universities this spring and then play a full season next year. They hope that eventually, they can turn hockey into a D1 sport at SDSU.