When Noah Brayton began his freshman year at Butler University in the fall of 2014, he immediately knew there was something missing, something that had been a part of his life as long as he could remember.
Since the age of three, Brayton had been playing ice hockey, a sport that had been a major part of his family for generations. While he thought attending a school with no hockey program would be alright, it was not. He felt somewhat lost.
“I really felt kind of uneasy, not playing hockey anymore,” he said. “I’d played it my whole life. Just the thought of not playing anymore was kind of tough for me.”
If Brayton had been at Butler a decade earlier, he wouldn’t have had this problem. Back then, Butler had a successful hockey program. The team even captured the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III national championship in 2000.
During the mid-2000s, though, the team fell apart and eventually was placed on probation from the university, largely due to financial problems.
More than a decade later, with no program on campus for Brayton, he decided to take the matter into his own hands and re-establish a team.
Due to the financial difficulties of the previous team, the PuLSE office required Brayton and other founding members to put together a business plan to get established as an official campus club. The group then had to become established as a club sport before competition could begin.
After a lengthy process, the Butler Club Hockey team began official play again in September of 2015.
“[Founding a team] takes a lot of commitment for sure,” Brayton said. “At times you think that you’d want to give up, or maybe it’s not worth it in the long run, but just making sure that you push through and keeping that motivation through the whole way is definitely important.”
The new program is now in its third year as a Butler club sport.
“In five years, or a couple more years, I would expect to see this team be a little bit more [than a club sport],” Brayton said. “Possibly move up a division, from Division III to Division II. I think the growth rate that we’re on right now is pretty much exponential.”
Brayton, along with another founding member, Eric Gentry, both see the future of the program growing beyond the current club team.
“I could definitely see it becoming a division one team eventually,” Gentry said. “Obviously that takes time and, the more important thing is money out of that. But hopefully as for right now the club team will keep growing, and keep getting better and better.”
The team has already matched last season’s win total with 12 games remaining, and Gentry believes it will only continue to grow.
Brayton, a senior, will soon head to dental school and leave the program he helped regenerate.
“I don’t want to say that this is my baby, because it’s all of ours,” Brayton said. “Just knowing how much work and dedication went into creating this, I don’t want to see it fall flat when I’m gone.”
By Savannah Boettcher and Chris Brown