From humble beginnings to fast-charging runs up the ice, the Calvin men’s ice hockey program is making the 2022–23 season a celebratory one as it heads into its 51st year as a collegiate program.
The celebration began on Calvin Homecoming Weekend as nearly 50 men’s hockey alumni, along with their families, arrived to either participate in or witness an alumni game at Eagles Ice Center, located just a few miles from campus. The alumni game was part of a hockey triple-header that took place between Calvin’s ACHA Division III contest against Cleary University and its Division I contest against cross-town rival Aquinas.
The Division III contest was won by Calvin 6-1, while the Division I team fought Aquinas to a 4-4 overtime tie. Most importantly, members of the hockey program from past and present celebrated a program that is rich with tradition and continues to build momentum. “It was just a wonderful weekend,” said Calvin Division I head hockey coach, Mike Petrusma ’85. “It was gratifying and humbling to see so many alumni back in Grand Rapids and wear the Calvin sweater again. It just reaffirmed something I already knew—that our alumni care deeply about this institution and its hockey program.”
Wearing commemorative Calvin hockey jerseys, alumni played in the late-after- noon contest and then met with President Wiebe Boer. Prior to the start of the Division I game with Aquinas, Boer dropped the ceremonial first puck at center ice.
The Calvin hockey program dates to the fall of 1972, when the first organized team was established. A trip to Canada to compete against the likes of Redeemer University, Dordt University, and Trinity Christian College materialized later that season. The Knights finished last place in that tournament but remained undaunted.
One year later, the Calvin icers roared out to a 14-1 start and proceeded to finish high in a post-season tournament competition, setting the stage for more wins to come.
By the 1980s, the program had increased visibility and popularity with the Calvin student body, playing at local rinks against schools primarily from Michigan. In the early 1990s, the program joined the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) to gain a stronger national foothold and make a run at a national tournament.
Current head coach, Mike Petrusma, took over the reins of the Calvin hockey program in the fall of 1991. He was well-versed in the sport, having played the game growing up in Georgetown, Ontario.
In 1994, Calvin made its national tournament debut, taking third at the ACHA Division II National Tournament in Albany, New York. Petrusma remembers the experience well. “We traveled to up-state New York and had a great group of guys and a very competitive showing in our first trip at that level,” said Petrusma. “That trip helped lay the ground- work for teams in the future, and it featured a team with a lot of talent.”
Petrusma stepped aside in the late 1990s to coach his sons at the high school level but returned as Calvin’s head coach in 2002. Several of his former high school players followed him to Calvin to play for the Knights, who, by then, competed at the ACHA Division III level instead of Division II.
In 2004, a Calvin team led by future ACHA Division III National Player of Year Max Sieplinga ’06 captured the ACHA Division III National Title, winning four straight games in Glendale, Arizona.
Success continued over the next several years as the team grew, and in the fall of 2017, the Knights split into two teams creating an ACHA Division III and an ACHA Division I team.
“We were getting more and more interest from players and had formed a JV team that played against several of the top local men’s teams in Grand Rapids,” ex- plained Petrusma. “That group formed the backbone of our current Division III team, while our Division I team also started off.”
Calvin’s Division I team earned trips to the ACHA National Tournament in both 2020 and 2021, while the Division III team continues to push for a return trip to the national tournament.
According to Petrusma, both teams feature extraordinary talent this year and hope to return to the national level. Jim Hartlein continues to serve as the head Division III coach—a role he has held since 2018. Josh Petrusma ’06, Mike’s son, has also moved into the role of Director of Hockey Operations, handling logistics and assisting with recruiting and promotion.
The father-son duo also helped renovate locker rooms for both teams. “I can honestly say that our Division I locker room is one of the finest in the country and rivals locker rooms at the professional level,” said Mike Petrusma. “Our Division III locker room isn’t too far behind. It makes a huge dif- ference for our guys, and it’s another place they can call home.” He credits alumni contributions for the project’s success.
Calvin’s Director of Athletics, Dr. Jim Timmer, is excited about the direction the Calvin hockey program is headed. “It’s great to see two hockey programs playing at a high level at Calvin and adding something compelling and collegiate to our athletics experience,” said Timmer. “The hard work and dedication from our athletes and coaching staff are wonderful, as is the support from our hockey alumni. We look forward to many more years of Calvin hockey.”