A typical Friday or Saturday night in the Rutland area finds residents flocking to the Rutland Regional Ice Arena to see Castleton State College Spartan hockey teams in action. For Jack and Lorraine Ayers from Colorado Springs, Colo., they find themselves in their comfiest slippers with their favorite beverages cuddled up in front of the computer ready to watch their son Cody play hockey for the men’s team over the Internet.
When Vermont natives turn on the radio or Internet and hear the recognizable voice of Jack Healey, they know it is sports time. With the advancement of technology and the expansion of Castleton athletics, people across the world can hear his voice.
A total of 20 hockey and basketball games are being broadcast this winter.
It’s an opportunity for exposure that most division three athletes are not accustomed to. People are used to seeing Division I sports on ESPN and major networks, but the lower divisions are seldom broadcast.
Men’s hockey Coach Alex Todd, said he’s impressed with the ability to broadcast these games live across the world.
“This can be a selling point in order to bring more kids to the school. As a division three school, there is not as much advertising, so it is harder to get kids interested in the program,” Todd said.
With an improving sports program and a blossoming school in general, students are being attracted to Castleton from across the country and Canada, officials said.
And now, parents of students from far away can stay a part of their athletic careers like they had been for years before they left home.
“For over 16 years we were able to watch about 80 percent of Cody’s games, but between Juniors last year and being in Vermont this year, we have not been able to see as many as we like,” Jack Ayers said. “With the Internet broadcast games we are able to watch at least one third of his games. It is a different atmosphere being in my slippers with a Coke in front of the computer, but it is great watching him play.”
Senior goalie Jeff Swanson has a healthy following from his parents in Grand Haven, Mich. His father, Ray Swanson, is an avid viewer and has not missed a game yet.
“It is great being able to watch the games. It is stressful being a parent of a goaltender watching hockey in any venue, but at least we get to watch,” he said.
“Parents have sacrificed time, energy and financially to get their athletes to compete at the college level, so being in a different part of the country it is great to actually get to watch them compete.”
Todd, the men’s coach, also uses the broadcasts as coaching tools, saying they allow more hockey people to watch and critique.
“With the ability to have graduate assistants and just other hockey coaches and friends watching it, it is easier to pick up on things that are occurring on the ice,” he said.
His coaches can be on recruiting trips and still have the ability to watch the games with a recruit, and notice certain things that are occurring during the game. They sometimes even call during intermissions to discuss things they’ve seen and offer tips, Todd said.
The broadcasts are also popular among students.
Not all students want to drive to Rutland to enjoy a hockey game. Now they can stay in their room and watch the game from the comfort of their own bed.
The broadcasts are also helping to bring more awareness of the women’s hockey players and games. Many people enjoy watching the men play, but the women work just as hard and now have a forum to showcase their skills as well, Swanson mentioned.
The college’s basketball teams are also benefiting. Not only are Jack Healey and John Lawrence announcing the games, but the grand opening of the renovated Glenbrook Gym was broadcast for many to see.
Although many of the basketball players are locals, many parents are very busy and siblings may not have adequate transportation to make it to the games.
Ralph Celestein, a sophomore guard from Arlington, Mass., is an exception.
“My parents watch all the games they can (online) because they cannot make it up to watch them in person,” he said. “I know a lot of the guys’ parents on the team watch them play.”
And the highly successful women’s basketball team is racking up viewer hits as well.
Student Sean Davids said he watches the ladies whenever he can.
“So far I have really liked watching the girls online. I can stay at home and not worry about parking at the school. I also try to catch as many games as I can,” he said.
Todd said the broadcasts can also help draw students and student athletes together.
“The sports here give the mentality of you’re on your own and do it on your own. This is not good and these Internet broadcasts will help get the students involved within any of the sports they watch. The next morning in class they could see the athlete and strike up a conversation about what happened the night before in the game,” Todd said.
The broadcasts stem from the uniting of the North East Sports Network and the Castleton State College sports programs. At the forefront of these two entities are the veteran voices of play-by-play announcer Jack Healey and his color man John Lawrence.
“Jack and John do a great job of cover and broadcasting all the games. They are fun and fantastic,” said Ray Swanson.
Both men said they hope the success and positive feedback they are receiving will help their listening audience broaden. They also hope to link their early morning talk show from the Internet to the Castleton State College radio station WIUV.
For now, they’re just happy with the broadcasts and what they are providing to interested viewers.
“This is a new program, but it is great for the college and high school players because it makes it personal to the athlete,” he said. “It is great for all the athletes whether they are in high school or in college, not only does it get them exposure but it is fun to watch their career blossom.