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UAA reinstates hockey program after Save Seawolf Hockey campaign raises over $3M

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:48 AM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:07 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Anchorage announced the reinstatement of its Seawolves hockey team after a fundraising campaign raised more than $3 million for the program.

The Tuesday morning press conference on campus noted that the Seawolves will hopefully resume play in the 2022-23 season. The announcement came from UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell, Athletic Director Greg Myford, Save Seawolf Hockey Chairwoman Kathie Bethard, and former hockey player Jim Mayes.

This fundraising journey began last August when former Chancellor Cathy Sandeen announced four of University of Alaska Anchorage Division I sports –gymnastics, hockey, men’s skiing and women’s skiing - were going to be eliminated to save the school $2.5 million per year.

A few weeks after Sandeen’s announcement, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved the cuts to athletics but offered a path to reinstatement if the teams could raise two years’ worth of expenses by February 2021. This meant UAA hockey needed to raise $3 million in pledges and donations over the course of five months.

Slowly the recovery efforts began to take shape as a group of supporters led by Bethard created Save Seawolf Hockey, a fundraising campaign to save the team. Opportunities to raise money in person were nonexistent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the group forged ahead raising over a million dollars by December of last year.

Save Seawolf Hockey ramped up fundraising efforts in January with an online auction, alumni game and youth hockey tournament. While they saw many donors pitch in, the NHL’s Seattle Kraken provided a major boost in late January when ownership and staff committed $100,000. The name recognition from the Kraken helped attract other corporate donors as Save Seawolf Hockey had seen many individual donors up to that point. Along with Kraken’s donation, they promoted the fundraising efforts to their followers on social media.

In February, the board of regents granted the hockey team an extension until August 30 to raise the $3 million needed to save the program. The gymnastics deadline was extended as well to June 30 to raise $440,000 which they accomplished. To stay reinstated the gymnastics program will need to raise another $440,000 by next June 2022.

Over the summer, head hockey coach Matt Curley announced his resignation after three years with UAA, and later took a position in the USHL as head hockey coach of the Dubuque Buccaneers. Curley stood by the program for many months as it fought to stay alive contributing tens of thousands of dollars to save the team, according to the Save Seawolf Hockey website. Nearly a month after Curley left, the WCHA men’s hockey conference dissolved after seven of the remaining ten teams in the conference decided to leave, UAA and UAF were the only remaining teams.

Despite the setbacks, Bethard and Save Seawolf Hockey were resilient and continued to raise money getting within $250,000 of its goal with eight days remaining before the deadline putting the program in a strong position to make a case for reinstatement.

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