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Season ticket sales drive under way

The next step in securing the long-term health of UAH hockey is building the season ticket base. A two-week season-ticket sales drive began Tuesday and will go through July 20.

For the first time, UAH hockey season tickets can be purchased online.

Reserved lower bowl season tickets will cost $242 and general admission upper bowl season tickets will cost $162 for 16 home games. This will include 14 WCHA games plus a non-conference series against Omaha to open the home season on Oct. 16-17.

Current ticket holders will get priority, and then new season ticket holders will get a chance to pick seats.

Buyers will have the option to donate their season tickets. They would be put in a pool that would distribute to local non-profits, veteran and military organizations, hospitals, and other service organizations supporting underprivileged families.

UAH students will still get into games for free.

If fans aren’t allowed in the VBC this season, or if the season is cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, season tickets purchased will be applied to the 2021-22 season.

The Save UAH Hockey Twitter and Facebook feeds will promote the season-ticket drive. For more information, email info@saveuahhockey.com or visit SaveUAHHockey.com.

Strong season ticket sales will show prospective conferences of UAH hockey’s commitment to long-term stability and growth. The Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Atlantic Hockey are possible landing spots for the Chargers.

Advisory committee announced: Save UAH Hockey revealed the members of the program’s new advisory committee on Monday, and it has a significant NHL presence.

The seven-member committee will guide and support the advisory board, led by prominent Charger alumni Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikitis, who will work with UAH athletic director Cade Smith on growing the hockey program long term.

The committee members are:

  • Sean Henry – President & CEO, Nashville Predators
  • Bill Wickett – Executive Vice President, Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Brent Flahr – Vice President & Assistant General Manager, Philadelphia Flyers
  • Cam Talbot – Calgary Flames goaltender, UAH alumnus (2007-10)
  • Paul Gierow – UAH alumnus and business entrepreneur
  • Joe Ritch – UAH hockey program founder and business entrepreneur
  • Ralph Drensek – UAH hockey alumnus (1985-89) and engineer

Hoof Beats: Restocking the roster

Recent events have the roster for the 2020-21 Charger hockey team getting a face-lift.

That’s to be expected after the program’s short-lived elimination. Returning players and incoming freshmen started to look for new schools to play for right after the announcement that the program was getting cut.

As of Thursday, June 11, six players on the roster have announced intentions to transfer to other schools: Josh Latta (UMass Lowell), Tanner Hickey (Arizona State), Liam Izyk (Boston College), Jack Jeffers (Lake Superior State), Max Coyle (Bowling Green), and Bailey Newton (Western Ontario). Latta, the Chargers’ leading scorer last season, announced his intentions to transfer before the program was cut.

The Chargers had announced a six-player incoming freshman class, but all but one, Ayodele Adeniye, changed their commitments to elsewhere. Three of them, Jacob Franczak, Connor Szmul, and Marty Westhaver, switched to the new program at Long Island University.

So far, UAH has received three new commitments, and they are showing tremendous upside (analysis by Asher Kitchings):

Conor Witherspoon, 5’11, 175, Metamora, Mich., Shreveport Mudbugs (NAHL) — The first recruit to commit to the Lance West-led Chargers this past Friday is just the kind of glue-guy we needed in this class. Conor is a well-liked, hard-working guy with a high hockey IQ who does a lot of the little things to help his team succeed. He’s quick to pucks and willing to go to the tough areas of the ice and be disruptive. More of a two-way, play-making forward, he was the second leading scorer on a defensively-strong Mudbugs squad, putting up a 52/5/30/35 slash line in his third full season of junior hockey. Conor will endear himself to the Charger faithful with his honest, all-around game. Conor was originally committed to Division III Norwich.

Tyrone Bronte, 5’10, 165, 1999, Melbourne, Australia, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights (NAHL) — The first Aussie for the program was previously committed to arch-rival Bemidji State, but we’ll gladly take him off their hands. Bronte was a teammate of current Charger Adrian Danchenko’s in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and has played all over these past several years. He broke into elite youth hockey in Quebec, and then made stops in Ontario and Michigan before securing a spot in the NAHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the 2017-18 season, where – other than a cup of coffee with Omaha in the USHL – he’s been ever since. A playmaker, Bronte has good hands, solid speed and a quick, accurate release. One of the leading scorers in the NAHL before COVID-19 shut things down, Bronte was putting up more than a point per game with 12 goals, 36 assists and 48 points in 46 games played. West will want him to provide offense early and often next season. I doubt we’ll be disappointed. Look for him to bring the thunder from Down Under, folks!

Brian Scoville, 6’3, 215, 1999, Agawam, Mass., Langley Rivermen (BCHL) — Finally another defenseman to join Ayo Adeniye in this class, Scoville gave his commitment to West and UAH on Wednesday night. Scoville is a big, strong defenseman who was No. 27 on Neutral Zone’s list of the top-50 uncommitted 1999-born prospects. Like Bronte, he’ll have at least one familiar face in the locker room when he arrives in rising sophomore Daneel Lategan, a teammate of Scoville’s in Langley during the 2018-19 season. The western Massachusetts native has been on scouts’ radars for a long time, having been drafted by the vaunted Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL back in 2016 (quite an honor given how few Americans the QMJHL historically drafts) and previously committing to UMass (Amherst) as a freshman in high school. Extremely athletic, Scoville’s game has matured over the years, culminating in arguably his best season to-date in the BCHL with three goals, 21 assists, and 24 points in 53 games played (including playoffs). Along with Adeniye, he’ll bring some much needed size, strength and grit to the blueline next season. From the outset, these guys will be tough to play against. On top of all that, there’s more potential to be unlocked here, and it’ll be up to West and whoever his assistants turn out to be to unlock it.


Original Charger Bill Roberts dies: Bill Roberts, who played on the first UAH hockey club teams from 1979-82, passed away on June 6. He was 61.

Roberts, also known as “Big Bad Bill from Billy Goat Hill,” was the Chargers’ leading scorer in the inaugural 1979-80 season, scoring 70 points on 30 goals and 40 assists in 20 games. He had 88 goals and 138 assist for 226 points in three seasons, helping UAH win its first U.S. national club championship in 1982.

A graveside service will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, June 12th, at Maple Hill Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Friends of UAH Hockey, c/o Bryant Bank, 320 Pelham Ave., SW, Suite 100, Huntsville AL 35801-5051.


Podcast talk: UAH hockey had a presence on podcasts this week.

Incoming freshman Ayodele Adeniye appeared on the Redvolution Rampage podcast to discuss race in hockey, the barriers for players of color and efforts to help grow the sport.

Charger alumni Cam Talbot, Karlis Zirnis, and Tony Guzzo went on the Running Poles Podcast to discuss how the program was saved.

UAHHockey.com writer Michael Napier appeared on the College Hockey SW Weekly show to talk about the history of the UAH hockey program, where it is now and what’s ahead.


New NCAA overtime rules proposed: Overtime rules are on the way to being simplified across college hockey.

On June 5, the NCAA men’s and women’s ice hockey rules committee proposed that overtime becoming 3-on-3 if a game is tied after 60 minutes.

Currently, all NCAA games go into a five-minute, sudden-death overtime period playing regular 5-on-5, with the result being a tie if no one scores. Most conferences, including the WCHA, have an extra overtime period of 3-on-3 to determine which team gets a extra point in the league standings. The proposal would bypass the 5-on-5 period in all conferences.

Also in the proposal, a three-person shootout could be used in conference games or for in-season tournaments to decide which team advances. Currently in WCHA games, a sudden-death shootout occurs if no one scores in the 3-on-3 overtime.

In regular-season non-conference games, the result of the game would be a tie if neither team scores in the overtime period.

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Corbett resigns as head coach; West to be interim

Five days after the UAH hockey program was saved by a fast and furious fundraising effort, Mike Corbett resigned as head hockey coach on Wednesday.

The resignation was first reported by WAFF’s Carl Prather. In an email Wednesday morning to supporters, assistant coach Gavin Morgan announced the “end of his time” with the Chargers.

Assistant coach Lance West will be the interim head coach for the 2020-21 season. Director of operations Ryan McRae and equipment manager Damon Wheeler will remain on staff.

“We’re thankful for the time and contributions to our hockey program and university from both Mike and Gavin while they’ve been here at UAH,” UAH athletic director Cade Smith said in the UAH’s official release. “We certainly wish them the best in their future endeavors. As we move towards the future, we’re confident in Lance and look forward to his leadership and what he continues to bring to this program.”

Corbett led UAH hockey for seven seasons, hired as the team was entering the WCHA. The Chargers were 48-181-24 during his tenure.

UAH made the playoffs three times in those seven seasons, winning one game. The highest the Chargers finished in the WCHA standings was seventh in the 2017-18 season.

West, who played for the Chargers from 1991-95, rejoined the UAH program before the 2018-19 season. Prior to returning to Huntsville, he was the interim head coach at Alaska for the 2017-18 season, when the Nanooks had an 11-22-3 record.

West was passed over for the permanent job in Fairbanks in favor of Erik Largen. The Nanooks were 16-15-5 last season with many of West’s recruits.

West was an assistant coach at Alaska for 10 years prior to his one season as interim head coach, and was an assistant under Doug Ross at UAH before that from 2000-07.

West getting a chance to be the head coach was a condition of Corbett’s resignation, according an email Corbett wrote to supporters on Wednesday afternoon.

“I want to thank all of you for your support and supporting the players during this time. It meant a lot to me and them. I wish things were different and the results were better, I truly do. I own that. I will not make excuses and I will tell you I came to work everyday and put everything I had into it. Not always making the right decisions, but doing what I thought was right for the program every day. Myself and my staff embraced it and fought the good fight every day. Only we know how that was and it was difficult but continued to put the program and the players first.”

The last two weeks were a roller coaster for Corbett and his staff. On Friday, May 22, the hockey program was eliminated, with his staff getting a final 90 days. Corbett spent the days immediately following the announcement on the phones trying to find new homes for his players.

On Monday, May 25, after alumni boosters met with university officials, a goal of $750,000 was to be raised in four days in order to save the program. With over $550,000 raised on GoFundMe and T-shirt sales in that time, top boosters Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikits completing the balance, UAH announced on Friday that the program would continue.

West’s roster will certainly have a different look for 2020-21. Five players announced transfers to other schools, including last season’s leading scorer Josh Latta, four during the period after the program eliminated. The Chargers lost five players to graduation.

In the week the school announced the cutting of the program, the UAH hockey official Twitter account unveiled a six-player incoming class this fall. Two of them, Connor Szmul and Marty Westhaver, announced Wednesday that they was going to Long Island University to be part of its new program.

Meanwhile, the WCHA board of governors on Wednesday formally approved UAH’s return to the conference for the 2020-21 season. It’s currently expected that the 70th season will be the league’s last, with seven schools breaking away to form the new CCHA. UAH will be trying to join the new conference, which will start in 2021.

This story will update as more information comes in.

Press release: UAH Hockey program reinstated

The following is a press release from the alumni group that led the effort to save the UAH hockey program.

UAH Hockey Program Reinstated with Fundraising Efforts Led by UAH Hockey Alumni

Huntsville, Alabama – Alumni, UAH Hockey, and college hockey supporters locally and around the world successfully raised the funds needed to reinstate the University of Alabama in Huntsville NCAA Division I hockey program. A total of $870,022 was raised in four days – exceeding the goal by $120,000.

Sheldon Wolitski, Taso Sofikitis, and current NHL goaltender Cam Talbot (all UAH Hockey alumni and the program’s key boosters) want to thank UAH President Dr. Darren Dawson for the opportunity to keep the UAH Hockey program alive, and Ron Gray and the entire University of Alabama System Board of Trustees for their guidance and support throughout this process. Additionally, they look forward to working alongside UAH Athletic Director Dr. Cade Smith to build a consistent and competitive D-I hockey program that will bring national and international notoriety to the university.

“Securing the funding is the first step. We know there is more work ahead, and we are committed to creating a strategic plan to ensure the long-term success of the program,” says Wolitski. Wolitski and Sofikitis plan to look at the structure that was put into place between UAB and its alumni to save and transform the UAB football program as a point of reference.

Wolitski, Sofikitis, and other key advisors look forward to earning an opportunity to discuss UAH’s conference potential for the 2021-2022 season.

Funds were raised via a GoFundMe campaign and T-shirt campaign. As of 6:30 AM CT on May 30, the GoFundMe campaign raised $537,220 and $32,802 from the T-shirt campaign. UAH Hockey alumni donated an estimated $255,000 of that total.

Separate from the GoFundMe campaign, both Wolitski and Sofikitis contributed $125,000 each. Combined, UAH Hockey alumni contributed an estimated $505,000 to save the program. Sixty-five percent of UAH Hockey player alumni donated to the campaign as well as many former student-athletes’ parents, siblings, children, and family members. A special thank you to Derek Puppa, a UAH Hockey alumni, for his $20,000 donation and to an anonymous donor of $50,000 (separate from the GoFundMe campaign) in honor of Fred Hudson, a pioneer of youth hockey in Huntsville.

We would also like to thank Joe Ritch, the founder and first coach of the UAH Chargers Hockey team who built the very program that we fought for this week.

What started out as a grassroots effort to save our home team went beyond anything we could have imagined. The support we have received from the hockey community across the world has been nothing short of amazing. We did the unimaginable – TOGETHER AS A TEAM. And it’s as a team that we will move forward with the future of UAH Hockey.

# # #

The group would also like to thank people with ties to the NHL for their support of the cause:

Donors
Cam Talbot
Dylan Strome
Mark Recchi
Chris Mason
Brian Burke

Social Media:
Patrick Kane
Brandon Carlo
Paul Bissonnette
John Buccigross
Ryan Kennedy

NHL Radio:
Scott Laughlin
Gord Stellick

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UAH hockey to play this season after reaching fundraising goals

After a furious fundraising effort over four days, the University of Alabama in Huntsville varsity hockey program will, as we say, charge on.

Thanks to a GoFundMe fundraiser, T-shirt sales, and a massive publicity campaign, UAH alumni were able to raise the $500,000 by the 5 p.m. CT Friday deadline set by the university to keep UAH hockey alive for the 2020-21 season.

“The total amount of more than $750,000 in private dollars will allow the Chargers to continue to compete at the Division I level during the 2020-2021 season,” according to a UAH statement. “This total philanthropic contribution is the largest athletic campaign contribution in the history of UAH.”

Last Friday, UAH announced that it was cutting the hockey program due to financial concerns exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, two of the program’s top alumni and benefactors, Sheldon Wolitski and Taso Sofikitis, spoke with UAH president Dr. Darren Dawson, athletics director Dr. Cade Smith, and faculty athletics representative Dr. Brent Wren.

The UAH officials told Wolitski and Sofikitis that $750,000 would need to be raised by the close of business Friday for the university to resume the program.

The cause was championed across several media outlets across the nation and across hockey. UAH alumnus and Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot contributed to the effort, as well as Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome.

Wolitski and Sofikitis will each contribute $125,000 to complete the $750,000 goal.

Dawson has committed funds from the university to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. “We are thankful and gratified from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey,” said Dawson in the statement.. “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.”

Now that the Chargers will play this season, the next step is stabilizing the program for the long term.

In a “state of the union” call Thursday with hockey alumni and boosters, Wolitski and Sofikitis outlined a goal to establish a $2 million yearly budget, with 25 percent coming from the university and 75 percent from outside sources.

An advisory council of alumni and local business owners would help the university manage the hockey program. They must collaborate on a 5- to 10-year plan philanthropic funding model, establish the structure of the program going forward and help secure a place in a conference, specifically the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), which starts in the 20201-22 season.

The council would also utilize the alumni network to recruit corporate sponsorship, recruit fans, and support the student-athletes with opportunities after their hockey careers are complete.

“The university is fully committed to the upcoming season,” said Smith in the statement. “The university will work with the supporters of the UAH hockey program and a newly formed Hockey Advisory Board to develop a plan that will allow the Chargers to thrive in 2021-2022 season and beyond.”

“UAH is committed to building a world-class D-I hockey program with a permanent conference home that will allow the Chargers to continue past the 2020-2021 season.”