When I say "Providence College," the first thing that pops into the average sports fan's mind is usually basketball. Most fans react to any mention of the "Friars" in a similar context, with mention of such P.C. greats as Marvin Barnes, Kevin Stacom or the immortal Ernie D.
Not many people outside of the P.C. campus associate the college with hockey. Few folks have heard of the name Ron Wilson. And most could care less about the Providence icement. Providence is a basketball-crazy town.
The hockey program at P.C. has been going through an identity crisis since its inception. Until this year the team did not even have its own rink. One fan characterized the whole operation as "little league," with the team trying to get ice time when it could at various local rinks and playing its home games at Brown or the Rhode Island Auditorium.
As if the lack of a rink was not bad enough, the team has been playing in the shadow of the highly successful basketball program. The fans obviously were not flocking to see the icemen in action.
As Providence heads into its sixth ECAC hockey tournament (they've won only one) tonight at Harvard, things are different. The team is finally getting an identity, and the college has frozen a patch of home ice for the Friars on campus, Schnider Arena.
This year's team also has its own star, one super defenseman named Ron Wilson. Wilson is rated as one of, if not the best, freshman playing defense in the East. He is a threat both ways, with a point total (37) that is tied for tops on the squad.
Wilson was scouted and wooed by quite a few colleges, including Harvard. But the East Providence native decided to stay close to home, and the addition of a new rink and some new fame to the P.C. hockey program certainly helped him make up his mind.
Wilson is from a strong hockey background. His father coached in the American Hockey League and his uncle, John Wilson, is coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Friar icemen, even with Wilson, still are not selling out in the new arena, which seats close to 3000. The basketball games are all sold out. But the hockey program is on its way up, and the squad is young (only three seniors). So maybe by the time Ron Wilson is a senior, he'll be playing before an SRO crowd in a "hockey-mad" town.