Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Charging Forward

You may have seen the news flash across your social media feed that the University of Alabama-Huntsville made the decision to cut their NCAA men's hockey and tennis programs from the budget due to the ongoing COVID-19 budgetary challenges. The decision is very real, and the Chargers will no longer play in the NCAA following the announcement on May 22. Like the cancellation of hockey in Lethbridge, this affects a number of people who play, coach, and work around the game in Huntsville as the Propst Arena at the Von Braun Center will go dark for NCAA hockey. It was a tough day in Huntsville with this announcement.

"These actions are the necessary result of intensive review and discussion about where we can make adjustments that protect our current financial condition with the least possible disruption to our central mission – education, research and service to the community," UAH President Darren Dawson and Athletic Director Cade Smith said in a statement to the university community.

UAH hockey has struggled since it jumped into Division-I men's hockey back in 2011, amassing a 54-230-22 record over those nine seasons. This past season, the team finished with a 2-26-2 record as the squad struggled once again, but fans in Huntsville seem to support their as best they can with the team having an average of 1419 fans in the stands each game, ranking them 47th out of 60 NCAA Division-I teams. The catch is that attendance has consistently fallen since 2013 which will always put more strain on the program, and those 1419 fans were just 21.5 percent of capacity of the rink, second-lowest of all NCAA teams.

With the announcement above, the University of Alabama-Huntsville officially closed the book on hockey despite a handful of other times it avoided the guillotine at the school. It seems any chance of seeing Huntsville college hockey in this season or further seasons is all but gone despite UAH announcing plans for a multi-use arena to be built on-campus one year ago. While that arena seems slated to still be available for other sports, it seems hockey will not take place at this new arena when it finally opens.

Or will it?

After the heartbreak of seeing the team axed from the university's offerings, it might still have life! A GoFundMe for the program has been started in an effort to keep UAH Chargers hockey on the ice for the 2020-21 season and beyond!

As per the GoFundMe page,
"We have been given an opportunity to show our grit as the University has asked us to raise 1 million dollars by COB this Friday, May 29th. We have already had alumni, booster club members, and life-time supporters setup with large individual donations and commit to donating annually to make sure the program is self-sustaining for the long-term. For short term we are looking to raise $500,000 of the 1 million via this Go Fund Me account. If the required funds are raised, UAH has agreed to create an advisory board consisting of hockey alumni, local business leaders and major donors to help turn UAH Hockey into a world class hockey program."
Overlooking that "show our grit" part, the fact that the university is willing to work with the program despite holding a gun to the program's head when it comes to raising money on its own is just enough of an opening to keep the dream alive, it seems. As stated, the program is working with some of the people who can contribute bigger totals annually, but this is where the public comes in to help save the Chargers.

Why is Hockey Blog In Canada writing about this? Well, besides this being another hockey team cut from an academic institution in the midst of this pandemic, the Chargers boasted sixteen Canadians on their roster in 2019-20 including one Manitoban in defenceman Dayne Finnson. All of the students, including Finnson, would be forced to move to a new school to play hockey if they so choose, so ending the program would be as devastating to these students as it was to the students in the Lethbridge Pronghorns programs.

Maybe you've never even heard of the program? Well, there have been a few notable names that called UAH home as they played with the Chargers. Cam Talbot, goaltender for the Calgary Flames, played for the UAH Chargers from 2007-10, and forward Derek Puppa, brother of former NHL netminder Daren Puppa, also played for the Chargers. Jared Ross, son of former UAH head coach Doug Ross, was the first Alabama-born and Alabama-trained played to play in the NHL when he suited up for the Philadelphia Flyers from 2008-10.

Look, I know times are hard for everyone right now. I know that people in Canada may not have a tie to the UAH Chargers program directly, but there are a ton of kids who played in the BCHL, the AJHL, and the OJHL who now play for the Chargers. If you can and have the means to, try and help this program. They've been given a chance to keep the puck on the ice in Huntsville, so let's help these kids get an education, play hockey, and reach their goals both on and off the ice.

The deadline is Friday. The team is about $425,000 short on their GoFundMe goal. Let's help the Chargers push forward and keep the kids in school in Huntsville.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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