Back in 1996, WAAY-TV conducted a survey, asking responders to rank the most influential movers and shakers in the Huntsville-Madison County area. When the results were tabulated, No. 1 on the elite list was Mark Smith, the Chairman of the Board and CEO of ADTRAN, a leading supplier of high-speed digital transmission products. No. 2 was Olin B. King, Chairman of the Board and CEO of SCI Systems, Inc., and its 22 subsidiaries. No. 3 was Joe Ritch, an attorney with the firm of Sirote and Permutt, P.C. At the time, Ritch was just 45 years old. Trailing behind were such luminaries as Raymond B. Jones, W. F. Sanders, Jr., Joe Hinds, Steve Hettinger, Hundley Batts, Sr., Joe Moquin, Jeff Enfinger, Woody Anderson, Martha Simms Rambo, Bud Cramer, Mike Gillespie and Major General James Link, the commander of Redstone Arsenal. Fifteen years later, Ritch might rank even higher if such a survey were taken today. A graduate of Butler High School, he holds degrees from UAH (1972), Cumberland School of Law (1975) and New York University (1976), where he received a Masters of Laws in Taxation. He sits on the boards of the University of Alabama, the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Sci-Quest, the Alabama Space Camp Foundation and the UAH Eminent Scholars Foundation. He is a key member of the Tennessee Valley Relocation and Closure Committee. Yet many in the citys sports community will remember him most as the man who almost singlehandedly brought the sport of ice hockey to UAH. Ritch founded the Chargers as a club team in 1979, won a national championship at that level, compiled an astounding 85-4-1 in three years as the head coach, and paved the way for the school to eventually become an NCAA Division II hockey powerhouse in the Doug Ross era. We thought we were going to drive to Arab and we ended up on Mars, Ritch said in a 1994 newspaper interview. Would I have thought itd still be around 32 years later? Absolutely not, Ritch said earlier this year. Did I ever foresee us becoming a Division II national champion or playing in Division I? No way. Ritchs favorite moment as a coach was the night the VBC crowd tossed oranges onto the ice after UAH beat Tennessee in 1982. His top memory after his coaching career was watching UAH play top-ranked Notre Dame in the NCAA Division I National Championship Series in 2007. We lost in double overtime, Ritch said, but it brought back a lot of memories about how we started with virtually nothing and 30 years later, were playing even with the best team in the country.