Friday, 29 May 2020

Charged Up!

I had posted on Tuesday that the University of Alabama-Huntsville needed some serious help in trying to save their Division-I men's hockey program. The Chargers, as I wrote that day, had some solid history despite facing potential program cuts before, but this one seemed the most dire of the threats. Thankfully, they were issued a chance to save the program by the university if they could come up with a large chunk of money by today's date. Today, we check in on that effort.

It is with great pleasure that I am here to announce that the GoFundMe for the UAH Chargers not only reached the goal of $500,000 that they were seeking, but are currently sitting at $536,900 at the time of publication! UAH Chargers hockey will continue in Huntsville, Alabama!

First off, let's give credit to everyone who tossed some money in to save the Chargers program. That is an exceptional amount of money raised in just five days, and kudos goes out to all who donated some cash in these trying times to keep the UAH hockey program running.

Secondly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski who, together, tossed in $250,000 in total monies themselves. This contribution is one-quarter of the total monies that the university had cited as the total needed to fund the program for next season, and Mr. Sofikitis and Mr. Wolitski deserve a little of the spotlight for their contributions.

It should be noted that Mr. Sofikitis is the President and Managing Partner of Maynards Industries, whose credits include being the largest automotive and forestry equipment liquidator in the world. The tie-in to UAH is that Mr. Sofikitis is a former Chargers defenceman who played with the team from 1992-96, scoring 10 goals and 31 assists in 29 NCAA Division-II games in his senior year at the school!

For his part, Mr. Wolitski is the Founder and Chairman of the Board for The Select Group, a technical services firm offering managed solutions and project-based resources. Like Mr. Sofikitis, Mr. Wolitski also played defence for the UAH Chargers over the same period of time from 1992-96 and scored 12 goals and 29 assists to finish with 41 points - the same total as Mr. Sofikitis - in his senior year!

With the school picking up the final $250,000 portion of the $1 million tab, the Chargers will play next season in Division-I NCAA hockey once more. However, the program isn't out of the woods yet despite hitting this clearing as UAH will task its newly-founded Hockey Advisory Board with how to ensure the Chargers' long-term future.

One of the first tasks that UAH has to solve is what conference they'll be playing in next season with the WCHA dissolving. With no clear future on travel, the costs of running the program could escalate greatly, and that's something that needs to be nailed down ASAP so that a clear annual operating budget can be set. Once that's in place, the job of the Hockey Advisory Board will be to find a way to come up with as much as $1.5 million annually in order to cover the costs of the Chargers hockey program.

"We are thankful from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey," UHA President Darren Dawson said today. "We are hopeful that this support will translate into a sustainable funding model that will allow the UAH hockey program to rise again to high levels of success."

While the immediate future is clear, there's still a lot of work to do. The good news is that the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers will return to the ice next season. Beyond that is still up in the air, but it's pretty clear the the community of Huntsville and the alumni of the UAH Chargers aren't go down without putting up one heckuva fight!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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