Of the twenty-nine current Sport Clubs at Illinois State University, few of them have as long and as storied of a tradition as Redbirds Hockey. What began as a couple of friends who liked playing hockey on frozen ponds has now seen 50 years of success, hard work, and a countless number of alumni who have built Illinois State University Hockey into a long-lasting franchise.
Officially established on April 17, 1969, by student James Petersen and faculty advisor Bill Easton, Redbirds Hockey had a bit of a winding journey from the ponds to the arena. After petitioning the University for official status, the club was initially given $800 (half of what was requested), but thanks to the tenacity of Jim and Bill, generous friends, a $1600 grant, and some open skating time at Four Seasons Health Club, the era of ISU Hockey had begun.
Like any organization, the club has had its ups and downs through the years, from struggling to secure funding to struggling to fill its roster. But the team’s players, coaches, and patrons have always shown grit on and off the ice, and Redbirds Hockey has achieved and sustained long-term success and growth, unlike any other organization.
This Spring, in celebration of its 50th anniversary, Illinois State University Hockey will be inducting its first ever Hall of Fame class.
The 2019 Hall of Fame Class includes:
The 1978–1979 team
The 78–79 team was not only the first team to win a tournament championship, but also featured four players who will be inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame class.
“This has been the most successful season in ISU Hockey history,” Easton said at the time.
Eric Brown, Player (2008–2013)
Eric Brown was in the unique position of getting to play alongside his brother, Justin Brown, as well as being coached by his father, Jeff Brown. Eric made an immediate impact with his offensive power and in his four years as a Redbird totaled 95 goals and 154 assists.
Norm Chouinard, player and coach
Norm Chouinard had the distinction of simultaneously acting as player and head coach. During his time with Redbirds Hockey, he led the team to a major turnaround on both offense and defense. His first year with the team saw them average over four more goals per game on offense and allow two and a half fewer goals on defense.
Brian Corley, coach (2005–2015)
Brian Corley was responsible for reinvigorating the hockey program after a disappointing 1-23 season. During his second year as coach, the team went 32-2-2 and won the MACHA Silver Championship. With Corley as coach, ISU Hockey not only finished in Central Region Top Ten for seven consecutive years, but they were also accepted into ACHA Division 1 level.
William “Dub” Easton, co-founder and patron
Bill “Dub” Easton was not just the original co-founder and faculty advisor of the ISU Hockey team, but also the team’s General Manager for its first 20 years. Affectionately called “Dub” by his players, was instrumental in keeping the fledgling program alive and thriving. Beyond his efforts in recruiting players, coaches and raising funds, Dub’s true legacy lies in his decades of leadership and service to the Bloomington-Normal and Illinois State community.
Thomas Faganely, player (1977-1979)
Thomas Faganely earned multiple achievements during his two years with Redbirds Hockey. During his senior year along with the league champion team, he was co-captain, MVP, leading team scorer, leading league scorer, and winner of the League Sportsmanship award.
Barry Graham, player (1978–1982)
Barry Graham was with the team for three and a half years and made a significant impact each time he went out on the ice. Some of his accolades include Team Rookie of the Year selection, member of the ICHL championship team, CSCHL scoring champion, team most valuable selection, team captain, team president, and 3rd in overall league scoring.
Emil Ludy, coach and patron
Emil Ludy is a lifelong hockey lover who has been a friend, coach, and patron to Redbirds Hockey for much of his life. From youth hockey to senior hockey, Emil has been a fixture of the community’s hockey culture for more than 50 years, and at one point in the 1980s merged his own team with ISU Hockey so the students would have a place to play.
Mike Mullally, player (1974–1976)
Mike Mullally is another lifelong hockey player who grew up playing on the ponds near his home. He joined Redbirds Hockey in 1974 and quickly began to earn accolades. During his time with the team, he was team captain, MVP, ICHL All-League Defenseman, and ICHL All-Tournament Defenseman.
Mike Oughton, player (1975–1977), coach (1977–1979)
Mike Oughton was with the team as player and coach through some of its most productive years. Owning 11 game-winning goals over his two seasons with the team, Mike’s clutch ability would later be a great boon to the team when he coached them to their first ICHL Championship in 1979.
Brian Panick, player (1975–1979)
Brian Panick played for Redbirds Hockey during all four of his years at Illinois State University. Over that period he worked himself from Most Improved Player to setting a new record for goals scored by a defenseman (11) and becoming co-captain of the ICHL All-Tournament Team.
Gary Parks, player (1978–1982)
Gary Parks was a steady force and a leader for the team throughout all four years he played. Beginning as Most Improved Player his first year, Gary went on to be one of the team’s leading scorers his next two years and, during his final year, was named Most Valuable Player and CSCHL All Star.
James Petersen, co-founder and patron
James Petersen is, for all intents and purposes, the Godfather of Redbirds Hockey. Jim, who also served as Student Body President, was not just a hockey lover, but the student responsible for getting ISU Hockey officially recognized as a club in April 1969. Through his many contacts and friendships, Jim secured the initial funding for the team and worked tirelessly to promote it. He remains a valuable friend and supporter of the team to this day.
There is much more that could be said about each one of these inductees, as well as the countless number of people not mentioned here who have been such a help and support to the organization. We hope you will join them this Spring as they celebrate 50 years of Redbirds Hockey. Visit Illinois State University Hockey for more information, including when and where you can see them play.