First, here is the link if you want to donate to the cause to save the Alabama-Huntsville program: https://www.gofundme.com/f/uah-hockey-keep-the-dream-and-tradition-alive?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet
The Huntsville Conundrum - A Counter Argument to My Heart:
We all want to see the game of hockey grow. Without Gretzky in Los Angeles, hockey is likely still a Canadian/Northern game. Tampa, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville -- probably don't have NHL franchises. We still refer to them as 'non-traditional' markets for hockey. The Sun Belt teams.
Huntsville is in that footprint – and they predate ‘the Great One’ playing Hollywood.
The Chargers actually have a lot of hockey history with them. Prior to the NCAA disbandment of Division-II Hockey, UAH became a power at that level -- twice winning National Championships.
A quick look at that Huntsville 1997-98 team shows they went 24-3-3. Four of those non-wins were to Omaha (two losses, two ties).
Just two seasons prior, they were undefeated.
Just last year, ESPN.com profiled Alabama as an unidentified hockey hotbed. While the article focuses mostly on the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Havoc, it mentions the rebirth of hockey in the area – the University of Alabama-Huntsville program.
It’s sad. Where did this go so wrong?
You can likely point to the NCAA eliminating Division-II as a start. Forcing a D-II school in a non-traditional market to play up t a D-I level. Schools in Minnesota, New York, and Massachusetts can make it work. It’s a harder sell in the south – even in ‘the hockey capital of the South’.
But it is also obvious that the University, itself, shares in the blame. This isn’t the first attempt to shutter the program. We were here just nine years ago – the last time the Chargers lost their conference. Again, then, they were saved by a grassroots movement of fans.
So how many more times can we go to that well? We can’t keep bailing out the program from afar. It is obvious the UAH Athletic Department is failing in marketing the program. They’re in over their heads. Unless something drastically changes – both in the college hockey landscape and at Huntsville – we are going to continue this cycle.
Even if we can prop up the program to play next season, they’re still working from a deficit. The university doesn’t support them, clearly doesn’t want them. And they don’t have the budget to recruit.
At some point we have to make a difficult decision. Is there a place for Alabama-Huntsville in the college hockey world? The heart says yes. The map says yes. But the conferences are telling us no.
Now might be the time to cut our losses. Short term pain for long term gain in the college hockey world.
They saved the program... (via GoFundMe and a group of UAH Hockey alums stepping up).
Bridget and I donated a few bucks to the cause (I also ordered a t-shirt via that fundraising effort).
Please don't misconstrue my previous comment. It's great that we were able to save the program.
But it's going to take an institutional change at Huntsville to avoid repeating this a third time.
I hate to see hockey programs fold, but to try and prop up a program by having a bake sale every few years isn't a sustainable model.
already they have "fired" their head coach (who probably is very happy he is no longer there)
their leading scorer just transferred to a d1 startup program in LIU. Hard to be competitive when you are having to wonder every year if it's the last.
I hate to see teams fold, and UAH has had a long and very successful history, but with no conference affiliation and them cancelling the program every other year it's time to end the program for good. (as much as it pains me to say that)