At the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Seawolves fans are rejoicing after boosters of the hockey team reached a fundraising goal this week to keep the team alive.
But there’s still a lot of work to do, and the team won’t be playing games again until 2022.
Faced with budget cuts in recent years, the university had given its hockey, gymnastics and ski teams an ultimatum: They had to raise two years of their expenses, or they’d be cut.
Skiing hit that mark, and gymnastics raised enough to continue for at least one year, and then the university announced Tuesday it was reinstating the hockey program after a group called Save Seawolf Hockey said it had raised the necessary $3 million.
Kathie Bethard is chair of Save Seawolf Hockey. She says it was a difficult challenge — especially with the team unable to play last year due to the pandemic — but she’s excited to see the Seawolves skate again.
Kathie Bethard: We thought we were going to be playing in 2020. We thought our team was going to be on the ice, that we would be able to do live fundraising events during their games. But then the chancellor decided that UAA winter sports would not be allowed to compete at all. So we actually started our campaign via email — just emailing, you name it, any email address we could get ahold of, we sent them a request.
Casey Grove: So you’ve reached this mark and the team has been reinstated, but there’s no coach and my understanding is there aren’t any players. So, I mean, obviously, those are challenges that need to be overcome. But what else is there? What all needs to happen for this team to be able to play again?
CG: And it seems like it’s already been such a big push to get the fundraising and hit that goal. And, I just wonder, even if all this falls into place, and you have a coach and a team and everything, are you concerned about the future and the funding for the team and having to maybe even do this again?
KB: Well, first of all, let me tell you: We are going to get it done. We will have a team on the ice come next September, and you will watch the Seawolves play again. The way that we’re organized, the plan that we are implementing with the university, is going to assure that we don’t reach this spot again. For any team, we’re going to make sure that the program that we establish is sustainable — that we have sustainable sponsorship, we have sustainable ongoing contributions. But certainly, you know, we’ll have to continue fundraising and people are going to have to make it part of their giving program to give so much to UAA hockey.