Team History

The USF hockey team started with a thought of two students who loved and missed hockey while attending USF in 1987. They had been at USF for a couple of years and played in some men’s league games at the only local rink, Sunblades in Clearwater Florida. Eric Mattson and Chip McCarthy decided that they wanted to start a USF team, so they began looking into the idea of a hockey club.

They researched the idea and found out that the closest college hockey team was in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia Tech, Georgia State and the University of Georgia all had club teams and were playing in the SCHA (Southern Collegiette Hockey Association. They contacted the then Commissioner Walt Flanigan to find out how they could start a team and join the SCHA. Mr. Flanigan sent them the information they needed and the two of them went to work.

Mattson and McCarthy researched the proper way to start a new club sport through the school and made sure they followed the proper guidelines so that the school would recognize the team as an official club. The process was very time consuming so when another student and friend, John Risinger, offered to help they accepted. After going through all the red tape and getting the club started they went back to the SCHA for their approval. The trio traveled to Atlanta at their own expense and made their pitch to Walt Flanigan and the rest of the SCHA. Several weeks latter came the good news. The USF Ice Bulls were accepted to play for a one-year probationary period for the 1989-1990 season.

Now, they need to find a coach and some players. Their search sent them to a retired professional hockey player, Tony Mancuso who was living in Clearwater. After meeting with him, Mancuso seemed the perfect fit so he was hired to coach the team. Their next move was to find the players. They went to the school newspaper as well as the local newspapers to help get the word out.

By the summer of 1989 there were already several students eager to play. Mattson, McCarthy and several future Ice Bulls took to the ice in a men’s summer league in Clearwater. But their work was not done yet. They still needed an assistant coach, uniforms and equipment. That summer they found Tom Thompson and introduced him to Tony  Mancuso. Thompson was named assistant coach. They also contacted the NHL's Minnesota North Stars because their colors were the same as the USF Bulls. The North Stars were very generous and sold the Ice Bulls pants, jerseys and socks that were slightly used during training camp at a minimal price.

In August 1989, the USF Ice Bulls had their first tryouts. Mancuso ran some tough practices but was able to form a solid hockey club. The team played its first preseason game in September 1989 against a traveling semi-pro team from Sarasota called the Sharks. However, Mattson, McCarthy and Risinger were not part of the on-ice team. Mattson graduated that summer.  McCarthy broke his wrist during practice and was graduating that fall and Risinger was a hockey fan but had never played. The trio stayed around the team trying to pick the right person to take charge to assure that the organization would continue on after their departure. So just before the first official college hockey team in the state of Florida played its first ever game against Georgia State at Atlanta in early October 1989, Eric Mattson passed the torch to Dave Walkowiak.

Walkowiak, who now has his own law firm in Tampa, had a difficult task ahead of him. Although the school recognized the team as an official club there was no school funding. Sponsorship was very difficult to find because hockey was still foreign to many Floridians. Bylaws needed to written, followed and recorded as a school requirement. Plus, because this was the clubs first year there were no guidelines to follow. Walkowiak took the Ice Bulls by the horns and became president. He solicited the help of teammate and friend Larry Sullivan and together they wrote the byelaws. Walkowiak assured that they were filed and that all the required meetings and paper work was met with both the school and league. He scheduled practices, games and referees. He oversaw and assisted with tasks with Sullivan and Mancuso like road-trip planning, money management, fundraisers and many others. Walkowiak ran, assisted or oversaw all off ice duties during the 1989-1990 season.

The Bulls finished their inaugural season with an impressive 8-3 record. However, the Bulls still needed to be accepted as a permanent member of the SCHA. In the summer of 1990 Walkowiak and Mancuso traveled to Atlanta to meet with Walt Flanigan and the SCHA. Several weeks later the USF Ice Bulls were named an official member of the SCHA.

The decision to recruit Walkowiak as president seems to have been the right one. The goal that he and Sullivan always spoke of was that the team be left in good standing with the school, league and community. The goal was also to establish a solid foundation so that the torch could be passed on and could be run without relying on one individual. More than 20 years later, that goal has been met! 

USF Ice Bulls Hockey Firsts

FoundersEric Mattson, Chip McCarthy & John Risinger
First Head CoachTony Mancuso
First Assistant CoachTom Thompson
First Gameat Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First Winat Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First Starting LineupC Dave Walkowiak
RW Jeff Martin
LW Mike Phelps
D Jeff Christlieb
D Greg Cunningham
G John Martopilious
First GoalLarry Sullivan
vs. Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First AssistsDave Walkowiak & Jeff Christlieb
vs. Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First PenaltyJeff Christlieb (boarding)
vs. Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First Hat TrickDave Walkowiak
vs. Georgia State (Oct. 1989)
First CaptainGreg Cunningham
First Alt. CaptainsJeff Christlieb & Dave Walkowiak
First PresidentDave Walkowiak
First ManagerJill Brooks-Martinez