Exhibit chronicles decades of RIT hockey

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Photo courtesy of RIT Archive Collections

This photograph was taken around 1960 when RIT hockey was a club team. The jerseys they are wearing were obtained for a small fee from the Rochester Americans who were purchasing new jerseys for themselves. The word ‘AMERICAN’ appeared in white on the blue band. Thanks to the wives and several friends from Kate Gleason Hall, all of the letters were removed except the ‘RI’ in the center. A letter ‘T’ was obtained and eventually sewn on. The first ‘official’ RIT hockey jerseys were produced.

“Skating Through the Decades of Men’s Hockey at RIT,” an exhibit at the RIT Museum in The Wallace Center that runs through March 30, highlights more than five decades of the accomplishments of the men’s hockey team. Beginning as a club team in the late 1950s with no official coach to becoming a Division I team in 2005, RIT Archive Collections has gathered news releases, media guides and photographs documenting the timeline of our dedication to the program.

The archives staff set out to involve former RIT hockey players in creating the exhibit, and Athletic Director Lou Spiotti wrote a letter to all hockey alumni asking for donations or loans of any memorabilia from their hockey years. To our surprise, we heard from 13 former players who had held on to their hockey treasures—some from 50 years ago.

Donations started rolling in from all over the U.S. and Canada. Every player who contacted us had a unique item to contribute—jerseys from several decades past, goalie gloves, signed hockey sticks from championship teams, a custom-painted Tiger face mask, photographs, hockey pucks, skates and even a scrapbook carefully documenting one player’s hockey career at RIT. We were overwhelmed by the generosity and spirit of these men. Not only were they willing to share these things with the RIT community, they also shared some of their favorite stories.

“I learned so much from the balance of school and sports and the friendships and memories,” says Russ Firman, who played with the team from 1983 to 1987. “I use these to balance my career as an emergency physician now with all the difficulties I face in treating very sick people. I use the experiences to help me find compassion and to have patience in the stresses of what I do. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think of my experience at RIT and the opportunities it gave me to be so successful.”

Adds Alan Shepard, who played in 1961: “This was the jersey I wore in the clash against the University of Rochester hockey team that was played at the War Memorial in Rochester. We won 3–0 and claimed bragging rights, and more importantly, the win catapulted the team into the hearts and minds of the student body and school leadership. I had the good fortune of scoring the winning goal in the first seven seconds. The roar of the crowd was deafening.”

The exhibit—free and open to the public—is housed at the RIT Museum, Wallace Center, third floor.