HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Eli’s on Whitney owner Rick Ciardiello has been involved with the Quinnipiac University men’s hockey team for four decades, and is even a part of it’s Hall of Fame.
Now, as a spectator, he watched from the edge of his seat as the team fought for a national championship title in Tampa, winning in overtime.
It’s a win, he said, that’s overdue.
“Threw my phone in the air and we’re just jumping four feet in the air,” Ciardiello said. “I remember that vividly. I’m like, ‘Holy cow, we just won the national title!'”
Ciardiello was born and raised in Hamden, joined the team in 1983 and became its captain. He was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and now serves as a mentor to players.
He said the players are great characters and that led them to national hockey fame.
“That was the big joke, ‘Quini-who?’ and now Quinnipiac is just a name,” Ciardiello said. “This can’t be forgotten. We’ve been there three times in 10 years and now we’ve won the national championship. We’ve evolved. We’re there.”
Ciardiello opened Eli’s on Whitney in 1994 in Hamden.
The restaurant hosted watch parties Thursday and Saturday. Hundreds packed the bar, bringing Tampa energy to Hamden, and giving a 120% boost in business on Thursday alone.
“Crazy, they were dancing on their tables, shirts off,” he said. “I saw people on the bar. If I was here, I would have probably thrown them all out. We aren’t usually packed until 1 in the morning. It was great. If we could have Thursday and Saturday Frozen Four games every week, we’d be doing pretty well.”