Monday, September 12, 2011

Save the Chargers

We're just five days away from the first anniversary of the event that has led to a massive change in the college hockey landscape.

I'm referring, of course, to the announcement by Terry and Kim Pegula that they would donate $88 million to fund varsity hockey and a new arena at Penn State.

Flash forward to March of this year, when the anticipated formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference became a reality.

While I still maintain that Penn State's entry into the varsity can't be blamed, the formation of the B1G conference in 2013 indirectly led to the formation of the oddly-named National Collegiate Hockey Conference in July and may lead to the eventual demise of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

One thing has not changed as the dominoes continue to fall. The University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, the only NCAA D-1 hockey program south of the Mason-Dixon Line, is still on the outside looking in as it slips closer to the edge of an abyss.

For those of you that don't know, UAH has a history with the Icers. Kyle Rossi did his usual bang-up job documenting part of that history on his Thank You Terry blog back in February.

The Chargers lost their conference affiliation when College Hockey America folded following the 2009-10 season. UAH has played an independent schedule after being denied admission into the CCHA in August, 2009.

Now their situation is even bleaker, even though the NCAA has named UAH as the host school for the 2012 Frozen Four at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

School administrators are looking at cutting costs at UAH, and the hockey program is right in the cross-hairs. The end result would be the end of varsity hockey and a return to club status in Hunstville.

As former Charger Jared Ross put it in a letter to fellow alumni"
" ... the University of Alabama Systems is currently dealing with major budget cuts on the Huntsville campus and are very seriously looking at the possibility of completely demolishing Charger Hockey."

Ross and his hockey alums and UAH fans are fighting back, with a grassroots effort underway to raise funds and convince the University of Alabama regents that hockey should stay -- at the varsity level.


Fellow college hockey bloggers are getting on board in the effort to save the Chargers. The folks at "Without a Peer" write that:
Hockey at UAH isn't a novelty, not anymore. It's tradition. We, as a community, cannot turn our backs on tradition, not with so much about our sport about to change in the coming years. If UAH loses their program, it is a clear message to other schools that might be a little bit off the beaten path and outside of the "traditional" hockey areas: don't bother, you won't make it.

I couldn't agree more. I was in Grand Rapids in 2007 when the Chargers made their first NCAA Tournament appearance. I called the opening round game of the Midwest Regional as the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish faced unheralded UAH.

The Chargers took the Irish to double-overtime before dropping a heartbreaking 3-2 decision. I remained firmly convinced that the Chargers' performance that day kept the Irish from their first Frozen Four appearance. The next night, Notre Dame had nothing in the tank as they lost 2-1 to the eventual National Champion Michigan State Spartans.

This past week I spoke to as many 'Bama fans as I could, asking them to help save the Chargers. You can help as well. The "Save UAH Hockey" folks want at least 5,000 signatures of support, but they're only halfway there.

Take a moment to sign the online petition.

Your support could help to save varsity hockey in Dixie.

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