THEN – The Waterloo Black Hawks were founded as a semi-professional “senior” team in 1962. The Hawks were successful with local fans immediately, and the team won its first league championship in just their second year together. In fact, from 1963/64 through 1967/68, Waterloo won five consecutive USHL titles. The sport became so popular locally, that in 1969/70, the Minnesota North Stars moved their top affiliate club to Waterloo. However, the Black Hawks returned after just one season and continued to thrill fans into the 1970’s. With a roster of older skaters who had played in college or juniors, the squad battled not only their USHL rivals but faced four different U.S. Olympic teams (1964, ‘68, ‘72, and ‘76). Then in 1977, the USHL merged with the Midwest Junior Hockey League and began the conversion to an all-junior format. The Black Hawks lifted two more playoff trophies in the springs of 1978 and 1979 during the league’s transitional years.
NOW – Although the change to junior competition led to some ups-and-downs for Waterloo hockey, the arrival of Head Coach P.K. O’Handley in 2002 signaled a return to excellence. The Hawks set a club record for victories in O’Handley’s first season and claimed the Clark Cup the next year. It was the first of five appearances in the finals during O’Handley’s tenure. Waterloo also won the league’s Anderson Cup in 2006/07, then again in 2013/14 and has been named USHL Organization of the Year three times.
In 2002, the United States Hockey League, became the nation’s only Tier I junior circuit. Tier I junior status attracts the top college-bound players, because it provides the broadest on-ice, academic, and social support while still allowing elite players to maintain NCAA eligibility. Professional hockey has also taken notice of Waterloo as quality place for talent to develop; since 2003, 32 Black Hawks have been selected by National Hockey League teams.