Cleary University Adds Women’s Ice Hockey as College Sport

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Brittany Knopp, head coach of women’s ice hockey at Cleary University. The former Central Michigan University head coach and Finlandia University star will kick off the new program for the Cougars. (Photo courtesy of Cleary University).

The Sports Department at Cleary University will add a new varsity sport to its programs offered in fall 2021.

The Cougars are launching a women’s ice hockey program to be led by Brittany Knopp, former head coach of Central Michigan University. The former Finlandia University star decided to take the role at Cleary as it would allow her to follow her passion for the sport while providing her players with the best possible situation for a student-athlete.

“Hockey is something I’ve always been used to and it’s something that makes me really happy in life,” said Knopp. “I wanted to keep getting involved with hockey in my career if I could, so when I got out of college I started coaching here and there and I really enjoyed it.

“After that I started coaching at Central and absolutely loved it. Cleary contacted me to see if I would be interested in coaching their new women’s hockey program, so I decided to see what they were willing to offer the players if they came to the program. As a former player, the most important thing for me is to get the best for the players I coach, and I believe Cleary offers that, which is why I took this opportunity.

The women’s ice hockey program will not be a paid sport, which was a key selling point for Knopp, as the cost of playing hockey can be particularly high for student-athletes who are already paying for their college education and their costs. living expenses.

“Cleary has made a no-pay policy out of their hockey programs, which is wonderful because it’s a little ridiculous to think that students can afford to play varsity hockey,” she said. “It’s an expensive sport to play to start with, in addition to tuition and accommodation for the students.

“They were prepared to cover all travel, team meals and equipment expenses. You never find that at the CCHA level, so it’s something that really set Cleary apart from all the other schools in my eyes.

The Cougars will host events at the Hartland Ice House, where Knopp hopes to build on his previous experience as manager of Mt. Pleasant Ice Arena to its advantage.

“When you know the price of ice cream, you really get more out of it,” she says. “When I first started coaching, I explained the drills a lot on the ice and spent time talking with my team while we were on the ice. After running an ice rink, I realize how precious ice time is, so we’ll do it all in Cleary’s locker room. I am going to be using my ice time only for training and it really helped me in this transition to a new job.

“I think just knowing the basics, knowing the ice, the Zamboni and sort of everything that makes ice hockey possible makes you enjoy it more. My time spent as a manager has also helped me better understand the financial side of things and the general information on what everything costs.

Cleary University currently has 19 varsity sports members of the NAIA College Conference and hopes to add women’s ice hockey to this list.

“We were accepted into the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division II field, but over the summer we were contacted by the NAIA,” Knopp said. “We felt it would be better for us because we are an NAIA school in most sports, so we have currently applied for this and are just waiting to be accepted into this league.

Knopp hopes to add 12 freshmen to his roster for the coming season and create a competitive culture from the start.

“I’m looking for players who want to continue their hockey career while pursuing a business career because Cleary is a great business school. At the end of the day my players will want to get this diploma and I can help them continue their hockey careers at the same time.

“As a coach, my main goal is to help our players improve. Making them better players helps us become better coaches in the process, so from the start, we’re going to create a competitive culture in our program and win it. games. “

If everything goes according to Knopp’s five-year plan, Cleary’s women’s ice hockey program should be very successful.

“My first year, I just want to win games, “she said.” I’m not too concerned with the results, as long as my daughters are out there competing hard and just building the identity of the team. Hopefully in the first year we do. let’s win games, then the second year we’re over .500, and hopefully in the third year we can qualify for the nationals. If we can achieve all of these goals in the first few years, hopefully we can move up to Division 1 by the fifth year.

“Right now our goal is to be able to practice three times a week, which will allow us to improve quickly. We also have a strength and conditioning coach and a very good support staff which in my opinion is aimed at giving all of our players the opportunity to be competitive and to make them the best hockey players they can be.

Cleary University announced in November 2020 that winter sports seasons would be suspended until the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services allows contact sports to resume.

“COVID has been the biggest hurdle so far,” Knopp said of his Cleary debut. “I had maybe a solid month of recruiting before it all closed in March, so I had to adjust to working online during my quarantine. This certainly made the whole process of starting a program much more difficult.

“The upside is that Cleary provides COVID testing for all of his contact sports three times a week, which at least allows us to skate for now, but we hope to be able to conduct normal practices after February 21. .

“Right now the women’s season is on hold until next year, so we’re going to use this time as a cornerstone for training and recruiting. Hopefully by August we won’t have all of these restrictions in place. “


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