A week after the university announced that they would be dropping their hockey program, a grassroots fundraising campaign by Alabama-Huntsville has reached a fundraising goal of $500,000 that could allow the hockey program to continue.
The donations should cover a good chunk of the program’s operating expenses for this upcoming season, should there be one. and at least temporarily keep the program going. The group leading the fundraising is also committing to create a UAH Hockey advisory committee that will work to guide the hockey program and help fundraise for more financial stability. That’s the good news. But there are still considerable challenges for the program to maintain long-term health.
In the short-term, Alabama-Huntsville will be faced with the task of putting a team together for next season. After finishing last season 2-26-2 and 58th out of 60 teams in the country, the Chargers’ announcement to cut their program allows any player on their roster to transfer to a different school without having to sit out a year, even if UAH’s program comes back. Freshman leading scorer Josh Latta has already transferred to UMass Lowell, while the team’s fifth-leading scorer Liam Izyk, also a freshman last season, has transferred to Boston College. Trying to not only fill those holes, but drastically improve what was, statistically, one of the worst men’s college hockey teams in recent history will not be an easy task, especially given the albatross of publicly announcing plans to drop the program.
But the short-term hurdles are nothing compared to the long-term hurdles. Should Alabama-Huntsville’s program survive past this upcoming season, the school will no longer have a conference to play in with the dissolution of the WCHA. Playing as an independent means little to no opportunity at postseason play, and perhaps most critically, no guaranteed scheduled home games. In Alabama-Huntsville’s last season as an independent in 2012-2013, they played just two home games against D-1 opponents, filling the rest of their schedule with club teams, D-III teams, and a pair of exhibitions against the NTDP U18.
It was a tremendous fundraising effort to raise the such a large amount of money in such a short time period. But it is going to take a much larger chunk of money, among other challenges, to bring Alabama-Huntsville to a level where they can be a sustainable and competitive hockey program.