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Central Catholic Vikings Hockey: Rich in History and Tradition

For nearly 100 years, Central Catholic High School (CCHS), a college preparatory school for boys in Pittsburgh, PA, has been guided by the educational principals of St. John Baptist de La Salle. The school strives to provide a challenging, relevant, and diverse program of studies and extracurricular activities in an environment that fosters a life of faith and learning and develops leaders rooted in the Gospel values of integrity, respect, service, justice, and peace. 

Seeking always to exemplify the Central Catholic promise, "to inspire boys to become Men of Faith, Scholarship and Service," the Central Catholic Vikings Hockey Club has been an integral part of the local hockey community since 1972.  After the inaugural 1972-1973 season wherein one hockey team played for the school, the sport quickly took hold and the program fielded two or three teams, thereafter.  Approaching its 50th season, whether on or off the ice, Vikings players, alumni and coaches have strived for excellence, not only for themselves, but for those around them. 

All three Vikings hockey teams -- Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Middle School/Bantam -- currently participate at the highest levels of competition for each group offered by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL). The Vikings Varsity team participates in the AAA classification, whereas the Junior Varsity and Middle School/Bantam teams each participate at the "Tier 1" level. With 13 PIHL section championships, 4 WPIHL (the predecessor to PIHL) titles, and Penguins Cup and finalists awards under its belt, the Vikings have also been invited to back-to-back bids for the USA Hockey High School National Championship tournament. 

Part of what every Central Catholic hockey player learns is commitment and balance. As recognized by former president Pat Veltri, "Commitment, as defined in the dictionary, [is] 'an agreement to pledge to do something in the future.' Nothing better describes a hockey player .. and, especially, a Central Catholic hockey player. From balancing a college preparatory academic schedule to Sunday night practices to being active in the community, the Central Catholic hockey player must be committed to everything he does and doing it to the best of his ability to achieve the ultimate goal."  

Every year, many Viking players are recognized by Central Catholic, PIHL and their amateur teams in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League (PAHL) for both their academic (honors and high honors) and athletic achievements. Recent members of the hockey program have moved on to play junior hockey in the NAHL, OJHL, NCDC, and USPHL, along with playing collegiate hockey at the NCAA DI, DIII, and ACHA Club levels. After their playing careers, our alumni have served on the staff at the NHL and NCAA levels with Chatham University, Penn State, Harvard, Providence and Michigan ... to name only a few!

A core component of the Vikings hockey program is service. Each year, all Central Catholic players participate in service projects ... whether it be collecting donations and supplies to send to Viking alumni troops serving in Afghanistan, volunteering on-ice time with the Mighty Penguins sled hockey team or organizing cancer research drives. For more information about last season's worth service projects, see Vikings 2019-2020 News.

As a club sport, Vikings hockey players must pay annual dues to cover the many expenses associated with ice hockey, from ice time and coaching salaries, to PIHL registration fees. Although these fees can be costly, the Central Catholic board strives to provide parents with as many options as possible to reduce these fees. These include yearbook and online advertising sponsorships to poinsettia and food-related fundraising projects.  Another way that Central Catholic keeps player costs down is by not requiring parents to regularly purchase jerseys and other apparel. As player jerseys so not include names, they can be used from season to season, emphasizing the strength and importance of the team rather than the individual. 

Over the years, fundraising initiatives have also included hosting tournaments. For example, from 1989 to approximately 2005, the Central Catholic Vikings sponsored one of the premier invitational tournaments in Pennsylvania as its primary team fundraiser. As a time when hockey tournaments were not an every-weekend-event or for-profit ventures, Central Catholic's Thanksgiving invitational annually featured multiple divisions and more than 20 teams … setting the standard for tournaments and fundraising projects to follow. 

Since it inaugural 1972 season, and for nearly 50 years, Central Catholic Vikings Hockey has proudly graduated players who continually aspire to exemplify the core values of CCHS as men of Faith, Scholarship and Service. 

* * * Some further thoughts about Vikings hockey from two of our recent past presidents * * * 

"Though good times and bad, our players, coaches and families value what it means to represent Central Catholic and to be committed to excellence."

       -- Pat Veltri, CCHS 1988, President, Central Catholic Vikings Hockey Club 2018-2019

"We hope that you enjoy the games played by our teams this season. We may not always prevail on the scoreboard, but it is not from a lack of effort by our talented coaching staff and young men. Please cheer on our Vikings, keeping sportsmanship in mind and remembering that they are just boys playing a game. Win or lose, our boys will learn valuable life lessons by playing ice hockey for Central Catholic."

          -- J. Kirk Freyvogel, CCHS 1979, President, Central Catholic Viking Hockey Club 2011-2012