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Editorial: No matter the goal, every season ticket sold helps

Like that Bernie Sanders meme, we are once again asking for your support.

It’s been about seven weeks since the UAH hockey program was allowed to continue thanks to a crazy week where over $750,000 was raised.

That was to keep the program afloat. Now the Save UAH Hockey group is helping UAH lay the foundation to develop a powerful Division I program and never again have to rally support just to keep it alive.

Buy or donate 2020-21 UAH hockey season tickets

The foundation includes a strong season ticket base, which will help convince the CCHA or Atlantic Hockey to take a chance on the Chargers because they are in it for the long haul.

Hence the season ticket drive, which started on July 7 and expected to go through July 20.

So far, over 300 season tickets have been bought and/or donated, which is already an increase from recent years but well short of the ambitious goal of 3,000 the Save UAH Hockey group has envisioned.

It’s understandable. It’s much easier to get thousands to simply pitch in $10 or so to immediately save the program than it is to get thousands to pay $162 or more and commit eight weekends heading down to the VBC.

It doesn’t help that the 2020-21 season is by no means guaranteed to happen because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The thing is, UAH need those season ticket sales now. While not hitting the 3,000-ticket goal won’t kill UAH’s chances of getting in a conference, the more sold the better.

And the sooner the better. UAH plans on discussing membership with the CCHA and Atlantic Hockey later this summer and, as they say in golf, post a number they cannot ignore.

Conferences begin preparing their schedules several months in advance, taking into account arena availability and existing non-conference commitments. You can bet 2020-21 schedules are already in the molding process.

If UAH wants to avoid being an independent, it needs to do this now. And this drive is to let those leagues know that the Chargers are in it for the long haul and can be a valuable asset.

Times are tough, but if you really want to help Charger hockey reach the next level and have the means, please consider getting season tickets, or donating season tickets if you know you won’t be able to go to the games should they happen.

If the pandemic cancels this season, the tickets will go to 2021-22. You will get hockey regardless.

Whenever you do come back to Charger hockey, the experience will be different. UAH and the advisory board are planning to make the experience at the VBC a lot more energetic and exciting, a lot closer to what you expect at a Huntsville Havoc game.

Plus, you can bet Lance West’s roster is going to be hungry. Expect an effort to be proud of every night.

More season tickets sold means more consistently larger crowds, which contributes to the experience further. There’s nothing like a big, boisterous college hockey crowd.

And the more season tickets are sold, the more of a cut UAH gets thanks to a renegotiated deal with the VBC. That’s more funds to put into a competitive program with designs on championships.

And then UAH can truly again be the “Hockey Capital of the South.”

There’s some excitement brewing with this newly restructured program. UAH hockey can be something truly special. This is another chance to be a part of it.

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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

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.

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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

Fast fundraiser established in attempt to save UAH hockey

This week will determine if the UAH hockey program can stay alive.

After Friday’s announcement that UAH was eliminating the hockey program, reaction has been swift, especially from hockey alumni who criticized the timing and the lack of transparency.

On Monday, after top benefactors spoke with UAH administration, including UAH president Darren Dawson and athletic director Cade Smith, a fundraising campaign has begun in an effort for the Charger hockey to continue.

To save UAH hockey, $1 million will need to be raised by 5 p.m. CDT on Friday, May 29 to continue the program.

A GoFundMe fundraiser has been established to raise half of it. If the $500,000 goal is reached, a group of donors willing to cover the remaining balance.

If this campaign is successful, an advisory committee of hockey alumni, local business leaders and major donors would be formed. This committee would advise Dr. Dawson and the athletic department on securing a long-term commitment to hockey at UAH and secure a spot in the new Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).

If the campaign is not successful, donations will be fully refunded.

For more information, follow the Save UAH Hockey Twitter account at @saveuahhockey.

Hoof Beats: Recruiting and pro updates, Frenchy Open set

There’s been a lot of news coming out of Huntsville lately – most of which has centered around a new arena – and lost in the shuffle has been a strong trio of commitments for the upcoming 2019-2020 season:

Daneel Lategan, F, 6-1, 180, 1998, Cape Town, South Africa, Langley Rivermen (BCHL). Yeah, you read that right, UAH received a commitment from a hockey player born in South Africa. Although he played his minor and junior hockey in Canada, this has to be a first for UAH hockey. Cool backstory aside, Lategan is a freakin’ hockey player. He’s a kid who’s gone from playing Midget AA a few years back to playing in Canada’s top junior A circuit (outside of major junior) due to sheer tenacity, mental toughness and a consistent commitment to getting better. That’s no small feat and speaks volumes about his character. So it should come as no surprise that his game exudes those traits that led him to a D-I commitment. Lategan is extremely aggressive and physical, regularly dishing out big hits as the first one in on the forecheck. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas and do the little things that help make a team successful. The scouts at Neutral Zone had this to say about him:

All in all, Lategan is solid recruit whose game is trending upward. After scoring just five goals and five assists in 49 games in 2017-2018, he put up a 61/20/20/40 final slash line, which was good for third on the team. Given his history, I’m hopeful he’ll rise to challenge once again and be a lineup regular from day one.

Tanner Hickey, D, 5-10, 175, 1999, Leduc, Alta., Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL). Hickey committed to UAH on the same day as Lategan, making April 11 a marquee day for the 2019-2020 recruiting class. I’m really excited about Hickey. He’s a right-handed shot and comes from a hockey family. His brother played at Boston University and is Buffalo Sabres draft pick (who, coincidentally, was a teammate of former Charger Kurt Gosselin with the AHL’s Rochester Americans this past season), so he knows what it takes to play big time college hockey. Scouts laud him for his heady two-way play, speed/edges, quick shot and strength for his size. “Hicks” can put up points, as evidenced by his 11 goals, 12 assists, and 23 points in just 39 regular-season games for the 2018-2019 season, and is also said to be a leader in the dressing room. Quality pick-up for Coach Corbett and his staff. Should slot in to lineup right away.

Lucas Bahn, D, 5-10, 170, 1999, Hendersonville, Tenn., West Kelowna Warriors (BCHL). The former University of New Hampshire commit recently decided to play his college hockey closer to home when he gave his commitment to UAH in late April. An alum of the Nashville Jr. Predators hockey program, Bahn has played all over the continent these last few years. After playing a couple of years of Midget AAA for the vaunted Skipjacks Hockey Club in Pennsylvania, he played a season in the USHL split between Sioux City and Des Moines, Iowa, and then went out to British Columbia for 2018-2019. Bahn is very athletic with a lot of upside. Moving the puck and generating offense from the back end are his strengths, and you’ll notice him right away for his skating ability. Check out this clip to see what I’m talking about:

As he continues adds weight and gets stronger, his game should grow by leaps and bounds. Expect Bahn to push for playing time early, and put a few extra butts in the seats for UAH home games with friends and family making the short trek down to see him don the blue and white. 

All three were needed for this class. Maybe we’ll hear another name or two added to the Herd in the coming months. — Asher Kitchens

Chargers in the pros: Two Chargers are still playing pro hockey as their teams continue to advance in their league playoffs.

Josh Kestner and the Newfoundland Growlers are in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference finals. Kestner scored in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Florida Everblades as the Growlers took a 2-0 series lead, giving him four goals and eight points in 13 playoff games this season.

The Western Conference finals of the ECHL features John Teets and the Tulsa Oilers, who are down 1-0 in their series against Toledo.

Matt Salhany and the Adirondack Thunder lost in the first round of the ECHL playoffs to Manchester, scoring two goals in five games. Cam Knight and the Fort Wayne Komets also lost in the first round to Toledo.

In the AHL, Kurt Gosselin had an assist but the Rochester Americans were swept in three games in the first round by the Toronto Marlies.

In other news, forward Madison Dunn signed a pro contract for the 2019-20 season with the Corsairs de Nantes, a Division 1 club in France.

Frenchy Open set: The 2019 UAH Hockey golf tournament fundraiser is set for Saturday, June 22 at the Hampton Cove River Course.

A pre-tournament social outing is Friday, June 21 at TopGolf in Huntsville.

Registration is $150 per individual and $600 per team. Hole and tournament sponsorships are available.

For more information, contact assistant coach Lance West at 907-322-3092 or westl@uah.edu.

The program’s biggest summer fundraiser is named for Jean-Marc Plante,
who died in 2001. Also known as “Frenchy,” the Laval, Quebec, native played for UAH from 1988-92, scoring 16 goals and 19 assists in 94 games.