Joe Battista Leaves Penn State to ‘Dream New Dreams’

October 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

DSC_8939_Joe_BattistaNow that Penn State has both men’s and women’s varsity ice hockey teams and a spectacular new hockey arena, it’s hard to remember a time not long ago when it all was just a pipe dream.

Until September 2010, when Penn State announced that historic gift of $88 million from Kim and Terry Pegula ’73, ice hockey was a club sport, and it was played on a rink that had audience seating on one side only. (The folklore is that there simply hadn’t been enough money to build a facility with grandstands on both sides.) And while the Icers, under head coach Joe Battista ’83, were among the finest club teams in the country—winning six national club championships—the idea of upgrading to varsity status was just out of the question. Too expensive.

And then, maybe five years ago, in part because of a relationship formed between Battista and Pegula, rumors started swirling that the Icers’ dream might actually come true. Our senior editor Ryan Jones ’95 tells the tale of how the dream finally did come true in the cover story of our Sept./Oct. issue.

Joe_Battista_player_days

Battista as an Icer in the early ’80s.

I have a clear memory of waiting to cross College Avenue over lunch hour one day a few years back and seeing Joe (who by then was a fundraiser for Penn State) stopped at the stoplight. He rolled down the window, we exchanged hellos, and I said, offhandedly, “What are you up to these days?” And he replied with a big grin, “I’m trying to get us a hockey arena!”

Today, less than three weeks after the opening of the 6,000-seat Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State announced that Battista—who came here as a freshman in 1978 and, except for a four-year stint after his graduation in 1983, has been associated with Penn State ever since—is leaving the university. Effective Nov. 8, he’ll step down from his current role as associate athletic director for the Pegula Ice Arena and hockey development in order to go work for Pegula’s company, East Management Services, as its vice president of hockey related businesses. (Pegula owns the Buffalo Sabres and is also developing two public rinks in Buffalo, among other hockey ventures.)

In the news release today, Battista talked about the Pegula Arena and the launching of men’s and women’s ice hockey as the culmination of a dream for him. “While this dream has come true,” he said, “it is now time for me to set new goals and dream new dreams.”

Speaking on behalf of his wife, Heidi, and himself, he added: “We will continue to proudly support Penn State and wear the blue and white forever.”

Tina Hay, editor

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