The Oregon Duck Hockey team has quietly become a powerhouse. They’ve won three PAC-8 Championships out of eight appearances, they frequently possess the I-5 cup from their hated rival (the Washington huskies), and have finally put in place a front office that looks to take the team to new heights.
Duck Hockey is a club sport, meaning the team is student-run and student-funded. They have competitively battled on the ice since 1989, but are a non-varsity sport and no player is on scholarship, in fact the team is financed mainly through member dues and donations.
In many ways, Oregon Hockey resembles the football team back when they were know as the Webfoots: they have a microscopic budget, a diehard group of burly amateurs, and coaches that rarely stick around longer than a year. The hiring of esteemed coach Rylee Orr will hopefully put an end to the latter of those similarities, and new general manager Sam Rosenberg has one lofty goal for these mighty Ducks...
obtain D1 status!
So, without further ado...
ATQ speaks with Duck Hockey’s
General Manager Sam Rosenberg
...AKA Sammy 4 goals.
(Sam Rosenberg is a graduate of the University of Oregon and played hockey for the Ducks from 2013-17. He took over the GM role in February of 2017 after his senior season. Photo by Eric Cech)
ATQ: How does it feel to go from student athlete to general manager?
GM Rosenberg: Going from student athlete to the general manager position is great. I was lucky enough to play on this team while I was in school and got to see the good and the not so good of playing for the Ducks. I’m a * (sixth generation) * Oregonian, and a * (third generation) * Duck; I’ve been a fan of the school since I was born and have been following Ducks Hockey since I was in high school. I even watched their conference championship game in class on my computer my senior year of high school. Being able to manage the team and be here to help grow and be an influence on this team is a dream come true. Admittedly, it’s different from playing GM on Madden or NHL or the NCAA Football video games, and there’s been a lot of hands on work to it, but I love it. It’s all a volunteer position right now (both for me and the coaches) but I hope that we will have enough success that we can be able to do this full time and maybe get some money for it too.
ATQ: How did you earn the name “Sammy 4 Goals”?
GM Rosenberg: In my first season playing for the Ducks, I played sparingly, partially due to the size of the team, the players we had and the coach. I had yet to score a goal and then in our senior night against Washington State, I scored 4 goals, seemingly out of nowhere. I had been a solid player in youth hockey with the Portland Jr Hawks, but hadn’t’ been able to score for the Ducks yet, and when it finally happened, the floodgates broke. It was funny, when I got my first goal that night, my line mate, Cody Drees was so excited and happy for me, he jumped into my arms on the ice. Announcers Isaac Rosenthal and Dylan Lee started calling me “Sammy 4 Goals” both on the broadcast and in person, starting that next game. Amongst the team, I also went by Rosy and Rosy-B because of my last name (typical for hockey nicknames) but the broadcasters have been calling me “Sammy 4 Goals” since that night.
ATQ: How has the team evolved since your first season as a player?
GM Rosenberg: Compared to my first season on the team, the team has drastically changed. From my first year until now, we have had four different coaches, including a player who then played on the team the year after he was a coach. The mindset of the team during these “transitional” years has gone up and down. I think that now with our newest coaches, Rylee Orr and Cooper Limb, that this is the start of something really special here at Oregon. These guys know the sport and are passionate about growing the team. They’ve seen how a team at this level needs to compete and recruit thanks to their time at Utah State, and they believe, the same as me, that we can grow this program and eventually become an NCAA D1 program.
ATQ: What is your ultimate goal as a general manager for Duck Hockey?
GM Rosenberg: to win an NCAA Championship in hockey. The goals needed to get there would of course be to become an NCAA D1 team, grow the team/brand of Oregon Hockey, get a new Ice Arena/Convert Mac Court or Matt Knight to NCAA Hockey standards, be able to pay coaches/management of the team. I want to create and run a winning and well-known hockey program. We have a great start and are really lucky to be here during a time where the school’s athletic facilities are growing and expanding (look at Hayward, the Rec, Matt Knight Arena) and the brand of the University of Oregon, and our sports teams is at a high thanks to the school and success of our various sports programs, we want to be included when people think about Oregon Sports.
(Photo Credit: Brent Howe)
ATQ: What are the major hurdles involved in becoming a D1 program?
GM Rosenberg: The cost, and school support is probably hurdle number one, but if the recent renovations and successes of many other Oregon programs is any indicator, the school is building up our sports programs. Brand recognition is also an issue, we are lucky when it comes to letting the rest of the country know who we are thanks to the Oregon name and logos, but most of the school and city has no idea that we have a team, so growing the fanbase locally is a hurdle.
Another big hurdle for us is the lack of ice, the Rink Exchange at the Lane County Fairgrounds is the only ice rink for 100 miles (Sherwood is the closest) and is in need of repairs/renovation. Renovating Mac Court into an on campus ice rink would be the best, since Matt Knight is too small due to the cement bleachers. Having NCAA hockey games at Mac Court and having the Pit Crew cheering for the Ducks and the atmosphere of a college hockey game in Eugene would be amazing.
ATQ: How much has the fan base grown over the years?
GM Rosenberg: The fan base that the team gets has changed over the years. Playing on Friday and Saturday nights, prime party nights, definitely gives us something tough to compete against for college fans, but our faithful have shown up. We’ve had nights where we’ve played with 500-1000 fans and it’s nights like that that really help, that atmosphere can have a big impact on the ice. I remember one year we were playing UW in Seattle, and a bunch of fraternities from UO took party busses to UW to go and see the football game that weekend and decided to come and watch us there. It was one of the craziest atmospheres I’ve played in, and it was so cool to have our fans at an away game too.
We hope that having our games at 7 PM will help a lot with getting fans out to our games. We are planning on reaching out to local elementary and middle schools to try and get more kids and parents at our games too. Hockey is such a great sport, especially when you get to see a game live, it’s hard not to become a fan.
ATQ: Will fans be able to watch these games on tv or online?
GM Rosenberg: The PAC-8 wants to eventually try to have something where a few games will be put on the PAC-12 network in the future, and ESPN3 had a thing where they broadcasted a few ACHA games each week as well. Until we get to that level, we broadcast all of our home games either on Youtube or Facebook Live for free. We try to bring our broadcast teams to away games as well, but since they are also volunteers and either work or go to school, it doesn’t always work out, but many of our opponents also broadcast their games, and we make sure to post links for all our games on social media.
ATQ: What can fans do to support this team?
GM Rosenberg: The biggest way that fans can support the team is by coming to games. Having fans at games helps the team both financially through ticket sales, but also through the atmosphere that our fans bring to our games. We strive to make our games a fun event and make sure that the performance on the ice is entertaining and that our fans are getting the best Oregon Hockey has to offer. Another big way for fans to help would be for them to invite friends to games and tell people about the team. Fans can also help by buying team apparel (available on OregonDucksHockey.com), and if they really want to, by donating to the team (link also on our website). But having fans at our games is the best way to help, since it will be the biggest impact on growing the team once we have the type of success we believe that we will these next seasons.
And if General Manager Sam Rosenberg’s passion for the program isn’t enough for you lazy Duck fans to fly to the rink,