Back in the 1970s, Wayne Schelien started an ice hockey program in Garfield Heights.

His son wants to follow his late father’s footsteps for his current hometown.

"This is personal for me," Ryan Schelien said. "I want to make things happen at Stow."

It will be a long process before he reaches his ultimate goal. But Schelien’s wish has become a reality.

An ice hockey team is coming to Stow-Munroe Falls High School this winter. Plans to form the team were approved by the Stow-Munroe Falls High School Board of Education during its meeting in May.

"I’m excited," said Schelien, who is the Bulldogs head coach. "We have some kids who are playing for Jackson’s club team (in Massillon) and some kids playing somewhere else.

"That was unexpected. We thought we would have to do it from the bottom up."

Schelien, 43, a Stow resident, grew up in Garfield Heights before moving to Broadview Heights. He went on to play ice hockey at Ohio University in Athens from 1995 to 1999.

As a youth, playing for a competitive ice hockey team was pretty much nonexistent for Schelien.

"Brecksville didn’t have a team," he said. "I played for a triple A hockey team. We traveled to Michigan every weekend. It was pretty good competition."

Stow had an ice hockey club team during the early 2000s before it folded. Schelien is hoping to build a program that will have lasting power.

"It didn’t have the numbers back then," he said. "I think it only lasted a year. We don’t want to be a two- or three-year wonder."

The Bulldogs are looking for players for the 2018-19 season, which will feature practices, scrimmages and possibly, a tournament.

"Hockey is not something you can just pick up," Schelien said. "You have to be able to skate. The challenge is keeping up.

"The other challenge is cost. It’s $200 to $250 for an hour of ice time. The kids in the youth program are used to paying $1,500. It will be a bigger shock for first-year players."

If things work out this coming winter, Stow hopes to play a full season as a club team in the 2019-20 season.

"We have to be a club team for at least two or three years," Schelien said. "The goal is to get into the OHSAA [Ohio High School Athletic Association] and be in the Cleveland High School Hockey League down the road."

Schelien, who previously was a volunteer coach for Athens High School, felt confident about bringing ice hockey back to Stow, thanks to the amount of local players from the Kent Cyclones youth program.

He would know.

Schelien is one of the coaches for the Kent Cyclones, who feature his four sons on their various teams.

"It’s a great feeder program for [Kent] Roosevelt," he said. "It features kids from Kent and Hudson, but it didn’t have a big conglomerate of kids from Stow.

"The Stow kids are starting to show up. We want to be right up there with Hudson and the other programs."

Chris Hricik, who will be the hockey team’s manager, and his wife Traci, a teacher in Stow, have been instrumental in helping bring an ice hockey team to Stow, according to Schelien.

"Traci has a good relationship with [Stow-Munroe Falls City School District superintendent] Tom [Bratten]," Schelien said. "We had a chance to sit down with Tom and [Stow-Munroe Falls athletic director] Cyle [Feldman].

"They asked us how many kids we have in the program and we talked about trying to sustain a program. We had a meeting and they went to the school board to have it approved."

The Bulldogs plan to play their home games at Kent State University Ice Arena.

"The ice arena manager, Bill Switaj, has been very supportive," Schelien said. "He wants to work with us and bring another ice hockey team there.

"We really want to get involved in the elementary schools. We want to bring Kent State players and coaches to teach and promote the sport."

Schelien also will have an experienced right-hand man when the team makes its debut on the ice this winter.

His assistant coach is 39-year-old Jeff Napieralski, a native of Rochester, N.Y., who played one season for the Kent State ice hockey team during the late 1990s.

"I always loved the game," said Napieralski, who currently lives in Stow. "I coach my daughter in the Kent Cyclones’ organization.

"Stow is a big community that has every sport. It’s a great opportunity to start a team and put on the high school colors."

Schelien and Napieralski will not be paid for their coaching duties until Stow becomes a varsity team.

That’s just fine with Schelien. He just wants to see the sport he loves thrive in a city he now calls home.

"We’ll start off in whatever division fits us," Schelien said. "Ultimately, we want to play in a division with Kent and Hudson. That would be a nice little rivalry."

The team plans to form a  fundraising committee in the near future.

For information on the Stow-Munroe Falls ice hockey team, email stowicehockey@yahoo.com. The Stow ice hockey team also can be found on Instagram (stowicehockey), Twitter (@stowicehockey) and Facebook (Stow Bulldogs Ice Hockey). 

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.