Drexel hosted the first annual City 6 tournament this past weekend, but the original inspiration for the tournament is rooted with a former Temple player and coach.
Jerry Roberts said he always wanted to create the tournament since he started coaching at Temple during the 2009 season, but lacked free time to strategize.
Roberts played with the Owls from Fall 2002 to Spring 2007, and remembers the Liberty Bell Tournament,” a competition hosted by the University of Pennsylvania.
The event featured four teams: Penn, Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph’s. The Owls placed second, losing to Drexel 2-1 in the championship game Sunday afternoon.
Recently, the league had gotten away from playing in the tournament, but Roberts cited popularity for motivating his idea.
“I believe our brand of hockey is gaining popularity and this would be a way to better publish the game in this area,” Roberts said.
After Roberts left coaching in March 2013 to spend more time with his family, he found more time on his hands.
Roberts’ plan involved pitting American Collegiate Hockey Association teams Drexel, St. Joe’s, Villanova, Penn, La Salle and Temple against each other in a three-day weekend tournament.
Roberts sent emails to the respective schools during the summer of 2013 to gauge interest in the idea.
Drexel general manager Justin Levin was drawn to the idea because he believes the event will bring greater awareness to Philadelphia hockey. Roberts admits that while he did inspire the idea, it was Levin and his associates who dealt with the tournament’s logistics.
All of the proposed teams were interested, but each already had their schedules filled up for the next season.
Roberts and Levin reworked their plan by starting on the details at the end of last season to make the tournament happen in 2014. In conjunction with the revamped plan, the other teams reserved a weekend in this year’s schedule.
Roberts said Penn’s Class of 1923 arena was eventually chosen as the host site for the tournament due to its 1972 refurbishment.
“We were shooting for the nostalgia thing because it’s an old rink, and since we were celebrating Philadelphia hockey, it seemed like a cool place to have it,” Roberts said.
The historical rink was introduced by an alumni organization called “Friends of Pennsylvania Hockey.” The group of Howard Butcher III, John Cleveland and Bill Wise donated $3.2 million for the facility’s creation. The donation was the largest in school history at the time.
The building has hosted teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and the ice hockey programs for Drexel, Villanova and St. Joe’s.
Levin said he expected 400-600 people funneling in and out of the arena on Saturday, but anticipates recruiting to be taking place as well.
“We are hoping to attract juniors and seniors from the area in high school that are starting the college process or are at least starting to think about college,” Levin said. “They can come down and see one of the six teams playing and maybe talk to some of the coaches and players about what their programs are about.”
Roberts worked the St. Joe’s-Penn game Friday as a linesman referee, a trade he said he picked up as a hobby when he stepped away from coaching.
The playing and coaching days are over for Roberts, but he said he plans on remaining involved with ice hockey circles in some capacity.
“It’s an addiction you can’t walk away from,” Roberts said. “I can’t exist without some kind of ice hockey in my life.”
Stephen Godwincan be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @StephenGodwinJr