LP Hockey club team celebrates 50 years

LP Hockey celebrates  teacher appreciation night in January, with each player awarding a LP staff member a commemorative jersey.
LP Hockey celebrates teacher appreciation night in January, with each player awarding a LP staff member a commemorative jersey.
Ms. Keri Olejniczak

50 years ago a legendary team was born. Since 1973 the Lake Park hockey team has been a significant and historic part of the LP community. It all began when former LP sociology and problems of democracy teacher Mr. Bill Burke was asked to be a sponsor and coach for the team. Although Mr. Burke had no prior experience with the sport of hockey, he took on the role with optimism. Thanks to the support from former athletic director Mr. Ralph Krupke, the honorable namesake of East Campus’s “Krupke Field,” the thought of having a hockey team at Lake Park became a reality.
The Lake Park hockey team originally began in the West Suburban High School Hockey League that then included Downers Grove South, Lyons Township, Glenbard South, Wheaton Central, Wheaton Warrenville South, Addison Trail, and East Leyden. Each team was independently run and could only allow high schoolers to play in them. Although the league began small it soon expanded with the participation of many club hockey players from the surrounding area. Even the son of the former Chicago Blackhawk Cliff Koroll, C.J, played for Lake Park.
Lake Park’s rookie team, with jersey’s similar to that of the Toronto Maple Leafs, started out with a humble beginning. Their very first game against Lyons Township ended in a 14-1 loss. Although LP had lost their first game, it only encouraged them to continue practicing and playing together at their home ice: Downers Grove Ice Arena. An original team member, John Shogren (LP ‘74) said, “Practicing on Monday mornings at 4am before school, and just playing with my friends,” was his favorite memory.
Another reason why the Lake Park hockey team came to be and still exists today is because of an honorary member of the team, Ms. Pat Murphy. “When Ms. Murphy arrived, then it became hockey,” said Coach Burke.
Ms. Murphy was more than just a team mom. She could be seen in attendance at every single game rooting for Lake Park, and helping Coach Burke maintain the jerseys, getting them ready for the next game or for Friday when all LP athletic players would wear their jerseys to school. Additionally, since these teams were independently run they relied on the help of funding to cover the cost of debts such as ice time, equipment, and merchandise. Thanks to her effort and support, Ms. Murphy was able to coordinate with the team fundraising events, most specifically a skate-a-thon and selling oranges.
After a rough few starts, Coach. Burke realized he needed some help and called upon Mr. Bill Murphy for some coaching assistance, a choice that would not only be beneficial for the team, but a decision that would begin a legacy. By incorporating his hockey experience from coaching two travel hockey teams and having six sons that already played travel hockey, Coach Murphy developed a team that would become big competitors in the West Suburban HS hockey league, shown during the years 1976’-79’ when LP had finished their seasons almost undefeated.

The 1981 Lake Park Hockey team, coached by Bill Murphy Sr. and Assistant Coach Gene Joxaux. (Ms. Keri Oleniczak)

As the team progressed, so did the fan outcome. LP hockey games were as popular as going to a football game is today. Back then lines of fans would be waiting outside the doors just to get a seat for $3,
“The crime in the Roselle-Bloomingdale area dropped because everyone was watching an LP hockey game,” said Coach Burke.
Coach Murphy and Coach Burke led the team to a few West Suburban HS Hockey League titles, in addition to a Kaiser Cup victory in 1977. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy’s six sons Bill Jr., Mick, Mark, Dan, Matt, and Chris all played for Lake Park and contributed to many victories.
Even today the Murphy family continues their leadership position. Their son Dan Murphy assists his son, Head Coach Anthony Vecchione in leading the current LP hockey team. Their coaching style aims to not only transform these athletes to be dedicated and strong hockey players, but to also be responsible young men.
“I’ve learned not only to be an example of a great hockey player, but also an example with my friends and family,” said team captain Spencer Sliva (LP ‘24).
By implementing minor practices like “when one person’s late everyone skates,” Coach Vecchione sets his players up to be responsible for showing up on time. When the coaches say “no talking when I’m talking,” the players are reminded to show respect to those above them. During weekly practices coach Vecchione has a goal of leading systematic practices. By proactively exposing and fixing mistakes from prior games, the players are able to develop their skills. Alex Guida (LP, ‘24) said his goal is “to end the season leading the league in points. Right now I am second, just short of a few games played. Playing hockey should be a positive experience and I do what I can to help the younger players succeed, as well as work as hard for myself.”
Most importantly, Coach Vecchione and Coach Murphy value playing with heart and creating an environment where players play because they love and want to.
“If they aren’t having fun then there’s no point,” Coach Murphy said.
Another important part to the team’s development is their bond. “The student-athlete relationship along with their camaraderie helps them grow better. They wouldn’t have a single win without their chemistry especially from the seniors who shed their leadership to younger players,” Coach Vecchione said.

The 2024 Lake Park Hockey Club celebrates its 50th year on the ice this season. (Ms. Keri Olejniczak)

Luke Winter (Bartlett HS ‘24), who has that goal in mind, said, “I do feel like I am in a role model position as one of the seniors. I try my hardest to set a good example of how a true hockey player plays on the ice, whether it’s timing of a hit, blocking shots, jumping in the rush, or sticking up for one of my players.”
The current team is part of the North Central Hockey league which consists of 30 other teams, including some teams with combined schools. Lake Park will soon follow this same path of combining teams. As of next year, Lake Park will combine with Bartlet and South Elgin to become “Lightning Hockey.”
This season Lake Park is 4-9 with 3 ties, but holds 2nd place in their division. At print, the team is looking forward to its teacher appreciation night on Jan 21st, and senior night on Jan 27th at their home ice West Meadows ice arena.

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