When UB Hockey arrived at their weekend home, a Super8 hotel in Moon Township, PA., players and coaches audibly groaned.

The hallways reeked of cigarette smoke. Players joked that the sheets were stained “by blood or chocolate.” Each room had three or four players, forcing them to share twin beds with each other in the dingy lodge.

Head Coach Morgan vonHedemann directed his team to take pictures of their rooms, mounting evidence for a complaint.

“We had spiders on our end table,” said UB Captain Anthony Coty. “There were dead bugs and nasty old nail clippings. We didn’t even shower… we showered at the rink because it was so gross.”

Facing Robert Morris University, outside of Pittsburgh, the hotel was not the Bulls’ first choice. The team submitted a “hotel form” to the UB Student Association with quotes for hotel options. As a club team, UB Hockey must answer to the SA if they want to spend money on accommodations or equipment.

UB Hockey planned to stay at an America’s Best Value Inn. They submitted their hotel request to SA. Procurement Coordinator Mike Grela was tasked with making the reservations.

Two days before the trip, UB Hockey President Anthony Trigilio was shocked to find out Grela was “let go from that department” and never made the arrangements. UB Hockey had nowhere to stay. They ended up at the 2.9-star Super8.

Trigilio expressed his frustration with SA. “We had done everything by the book, meaning we received an invoice from the hotel, and we submitted it through the SAFE system like they tell us to. And we still had problems with it.”

Grela and SA have not commented on the incident.

“Welcome to my life,” said Bulls’ Head Coach Morgan vonHedemann. “Welcome to UB.”

A former player, club executive, and current coach, vonHedemann has been with UB Hockey for the better part of the last decade. He’s used to butting heads with SA, but he embraces the “bad news bears mentality.”

The Bulls are seen as a top program despite difficulties with funding and school support. The Bulls trotted out 17 new players on Friday night and kept pace with Robert Morris, a private school with an NCAA hockey program. Mike Joseph, RMU’s Head Coach, joked that he wanted the growing UB program off their schedule next year.

via Tantalo Takes on YouTube – Commentary by Ryan Tantalo

The players returned to the hotel after the game Friday night, but subpar conditions allowed little comfort. On Saturday morning, sleepless players commiserated over breakfast at a local diner. 

Coty said, “The bed was hard as rocks… it was by far the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed at.”

Most players slept fully clothed, on top of their comforters. vonHedemann used towels as blankets.

“I might just burn my [clothes],” said UB Assistant Coach Will Stryker. 

The UB Hockey club is composed of three teams, Men’s ACHA, Men’s CHF, and Women’s ACHA. They all answer to SA, instead of the school’s athletic department. 

Players contribute their own money to fund the teams, but SA must approve transactions.

This process can take weeks to complete, delaying things like uniform orders. The team is still waiting to receive their full shipment for the 2022 season. As documented above, SA’s policy also complicates the hotel booking process.

For a team competing for national club hockey rankings, the SA regulations place several additional challenges on volunteer coaches and student club executives. UB Hockey lobbied the university numerous times for relegation to athletic department or recreation oversight. For now, they play the cards they’ve been dealt. 

After breakfast, the team boarded their bus to the rink. vonHedemann hummed the Willie Nelson classic “on the road again,” while resting his head against the seat in front of him. It would be another 10 hours until the team returned to Buffalo.