Upon transferring to Western Michigan University I found out how passionate the fans are. I never really followed college hockey before my time here at WMU. I'm sure more of my fellow students are the same way. Most of the people here rooted for Michigan or Michigan State in basketball and football but for the Bronco Hockey they usually are the first team any of us root for.
Bronco Hockey has long been frustrating for many fans. Especially since larger schools so close experience a great deal of success. Whats even worse is seeing smaller schools succeed like Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State University. We have the potential to be great, but never act upon it. Plus our uniforms are usually black and white. Really? That's not even trying. Now we have some nicer, more classic ones with our actual school colors on them. Why can't this university realize what our school colors really are?
Now that the background has been set, we look at the program now. They are very talented and young, and if these players stick around, this team could be good. Last year the Broncos hosted and won a playoff series against Lake State. So things must be looking up right?
The Broncos are held back by pitiful special teams and offense. Since we have the talent, coaching has to come into question. Jim Culhane has long been under the microscope. He played his college hockey here and played a few years for the Hartford Whalers. He then came back and took over the program with zero head coaching experience. He is an inexpensive coach and some rumors say he will take over as Athletic Director when Kathy Beauregard steps downs. That being said, he has a winning percentage that would get most coaches fired and has never been under the hot seat. He just signed a three year extension last year. Why does he keep getting second chances?
Culhane can recruit. We get players (multiple NHL Draft Picks play here) that WMU has no business having. He convinces these kids to come to a program with little coverage and virtually zero postseason success. Sure, we don't steal recruits from the big boys in the state, but we get our share of talented players. He also puts together an upset or two every year. He gets decent support from the community and is probably a good enough guy. But is that enough to keep a coach around? Then again, it may not be his fault. The program is poorly supported in cash. Its expensive to have a hockey program, but even still. It seems like basketball and football get far more support than the hockey program. A new arena has been proposed (it would also house the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings and WMU Bronco Basketball, payment would be through the K-Wings owner and a 1% increase in restaurant taxes) and it would be built downtown. It would be an obvious boost to downtown businesses and restaurants, and maybe some of the families who left because of the loud and vulgar student section would come back. They pay good money for the tickets, and students don't. Should students be charged for tickets? They are at Ferris and people still show up. I can't see why having a small season ticket charge for students would be such a bad thing. Attendance would go down but the money could be useful and if the product is better more people would show up. Also, please get a small band to come and play at some of the games (if not all). The support would be nice and having a real band there would be fun. It could only add to the college hockey experience. Miami of Ohio built new facilities and made it to the National Championship game (which they should have won), so why can't we duplicate that in Kalamazoo? Parking would be an issue, but I'm sure WMU can come up with something. The interest and support for the Broncos would be immense and can give the town something to be proud of.
So can Bronco hockey be a big time program? Sure it could. With a new arena and the revenue from it, the increased recruiting and interest from the town, there is no reason that this team could not be very competitive with the established powers in the state.