The Seawolves are going to skate again.
The UAA hockey program is back after a year of fundraising that has raised more than $ 3 million from more than 1,100 donors.
“It’s a great day to be a Seawolf,” UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell told reporters in the hockey locker room at the Seawolf Sports Center on Tuesday morning. “This is our day to celebrate the reinstatement of the program. “
The team plans to return to action for the 2022-2023 season. The Seawolves jumped last season due to COVID-19 and will take this season to regroup after losing their coach and players during the uncertainty of the past 12 months.
Tuesday marked a deadline imposed by the University of Alaska Board of Trustees nearly a year ago. The regents cut the hockey program but threw a lifeline on it – the program could survive if it could raise $ 3 million, enough to cover two years of operating costs.
The Save Seawolf Hockey fundraising campaign hit that milestone on Monday.
“MARKED THE GW ~ $ 3M INCREASED! Said an ad on the campaign’s website.
“We are thrilled,” said Jim Mayes, former hockey player, member of the Seawolf Hockey Alumni Association. “We are looking forward to the future … and building a strong program like we have been in the past. There is no reason why we cannot make this a solid program for years to come.
GW – short for winning goal – was a team effort, said Save Seawolf Hockey president Kathie Bethard, the muscle and heart behind the fundraising effort.
His group has raised funds by organizing hockey tournaments, hockey camps and golf tournaments, holding silent auctions, reaching out to sources small and large.
“It wouldn’t have happened if the hockey community hadn’t come together and believed we could make it happen,” said Bethard. “Thanks to everyone who donated, from $ 2 to $ 250,000.”
[The UAA hockey team is fighting for its life, and the Seattle Kraken are here to help]
A total of $ 3.1 million was collected in cash and pledges, more than half of which was in cash. said Bethard.
The money came from 1,140 sources, she said – individuals, small businesses and corporations.
She said nearly two dozen committee members helped make the effort a success, and among those she singled out was the Benton Bay Lions Club, a longtime supporter of all UAA sports.
“They allowed us to be able to raise money virtually, through auctions and dividing the pots,” she said. “They are also helping with our golf tournament.”
Donations have come from all over Alaska and the United States, Bethard said. The campaign received a huge boost from the Seattle Kraken, the new NHL team in Seattle. The team and people associated with it donated approximately $ 150,000 in cash, and the Kraken launched its own Save the Seawolves campaign.
The final $ 400,000 of the $ 3 million has been raised over the past three weeks, a push spurred by a recent TV ad campaign.
“We had 70 individual contributions last week alone,” Bethard said.
While the pressure to meet the fundraising deadline is over, there is still a long way to go to truly save UAS hockey. When asked which task was the most difficult – raising $ 3 million in one year or building a Division I varsity hockey team from scratch – Parnell deviated.
“We are here to celebrate the moment,” he said. “This is good news for Anchorage, for Alaska, for varsity sports.”
After the press conference, UAA sporting director Greg Myford acknowledged the challenge ahead.
Not only do the Seawolves have no coaches or players, but the conference they played in – the Western Collegiate Hockey Association – has dissolved, leaving the UAA and UAF without a guaranteed opponent to fill their schedules.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Myford said.
The first step is to hire a coach to replace Matt Curley, who resigned earlier this summer to take up a coaching position in the American Hockey League.
“The sooner the better,” said Myford, who said the school had received more than 20 applicants for the post.
A new coach will have three immediate challenges, he said: “Recruit, plan and build the culture. “
The team will also be looking for a new place to play. In order to cut expenses, the UAA in 2019 moved home games from the spacious Sullivan Arena to its small campus rink, and almost everyone agrees the team needs a bigger and better place. to play in order to attract fans to matches.
Wherever the team plays, Mayes wants to see the Seawolves rock the house like they did in the early 1990s when he was a member of the team.
“The kids who saw the Seawolves play back then were Joey Crabbe, Scotty Gomez, Brian Swanson,” he said, ticking off the names of the Alaskans who continued to play in the NHL. “Now the kids have never seen this full arena.
“… My goal in my life is to see this arena full and the program strong. We want to bring back these young fans and bring back the taste of college hockey. “