Every collegiate sports program in the world has had its program-defining players. Program-defining players are the type of players that, even after they’ve left the university, will fondly be remembered by fans and also become the barometer as to which the program’s future players will be compared to. For the West Chester University men’s hockey program, that player is Jim Gehring.A transfer from Division I Mercyhurst College, the Chester Springs native prior to the 2006-07 season and dazzled coaches and teammates alike in WCU’s pre-season practices with a lethal combination of speed, power, and hands as well as one of the most powerful shots in the country. More importantly, his off-ice training regimen shocked observers.
” I try to do a lot of lifting and speed work. I also try to do a lot of skating and I also get on the skating treadmill to work on my technique,” Gehring said. “I usually try to work out six days per week for roughly three or four hours at a time.”
Despite his conditioning work, Gehring never felt like he was in peak shape during his rookie year at West Chester. Despite leading the team with 37 goals, 25 assists and 63 points, Gehring felt that there was much left to be desired with his personal shape and his on-ice performance.
“I knew I could step in from day 1 and make a big impact, but my first year was a little rough. I wasn’t in the shape I needed to be and I was working with brand-new teammates, so I knew I could be a lot better in my second year.”
Named the team’s captain prior to the 2007-08 season, Gehring exploded onto the national scene with a breathtaking season. He broke several team records en route to a splendid 108 point season, including a school-record 55 goals. More importantly, he carried the Golden Rams to their then-most successful season ever with 28 wins, including an Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title as well as the school’s first ever ECHA playoff championship.
“I think that was a big step for our team,” Gehring said. “It served as a springboard into this season.”
Gehring made the ECHA’s All-Star team, was named First Team All-ECHA, won the ECHA MVP award, was named to the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s All-American First Team, and in what is easily WCU’s biggest individual award of all-time, took home the ACHA’s Player of the Year Award.
“That was really nice to win,” Gehring stated. “It really felt like all of my hard work in the off-season had paid off.”
Despite receiving increased attention from defenses in 2008-09, Gehring still managed to produce an All-American level, leading the Golden Rams to a No. 4 overall ranking, 29 wins, and yet another sweep of the ECHA championships.
Now, Gehring will turn his sights to perhaps playing professionally in Europe. Last month, he was a part of Team USA at the World University Games in Harbin, China that finished seventh in the tournament. The seventh place finish was the highest in the U.S history at the tournament, and Gehring finished the tournament tied for the team lead in points with Illinois’ Johnny Liang.
“Oh man, that was an awesome experience,” Gehring said. “We had a great group of guys and we had a lot of fun over there. It was a big confidence booster for me because it showed me that I could play with the best.”
Gehring hopes to parlay that strong tournament and record-setting WCU career into a contract in one of the many elite European leagues. He left his coaches in Harbin with a very strong impression, which will undoubtedly bode well for any future professional offers.
Gehring’s three years have left an indelible impression on this program. With his 277 career points, Gehring comfortably sits at the top of WCU’s all-time points list. With his nine individual school records, his name will remain etched in the record book for quite some time.
The ultimate question to ask is whether or not Gehring is the greatest player in WCU history. With his nine records, 277 points, National Player of the Year award (with a possible second coming up), two conference Player of the Year awards, First Team All-American plaque, two playoff titles, three regular-season titles and the sheer dominance that he has displayed on the ice, it is impossible to ignore it. Jim Gehring is indeed the greatest player in West Chester University men’s hockey history, and it will be a long time before we see someone of his caliber again.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.