Cam Talbot, supporters trying to save Alabama-Huntsville hockey program

The lights may not be out just yet on the University of Alabama-Huntsville men’s hockey program.

Days after the school announced it was cutting men’s and women’s tennis, as well as hockey, the opportunity was presented to give the team one more season and the chance to find private funding.

That fundraising goal? $1 million by the end of this week.

“[School president Darren Dawson] did make us a verbal commitment that if you get to that number, we’ll make it happen,” former UAH player Sheldon Wolitski told AL.com. “We’re hoping he’s going to honor his word. We were asking for a formal statement from him to say that. It would be a shame to put all this effort and we raise it and he doesn’t follow through.”

Dawson and athletic director Cade Smith announced last week that the program, which goes back 41 years, was ending due to budget problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hockey in Huntsville has been around since the late 70s and it’s really grown,” said Jared Ross, who played four years at UAH and whose dad coached the team for 25 years. “You look at the kids around the rink and how it’s impacted them. You see them out on the ice skating during the intermission and cleaning up the snow. It’s had a huge impact on the growth of hockey in Huntsville.”

Wolitski and another former player promised $300,00 toward the $1 million goal. A GoFundMe has raised over $260,000 as of Thursday morning toward the short-term goal of $500,000.

From the fundraising page:

For short term we are looking to raise $500,000 of the 1 million via this Go Fund Me account. If the required funds are raised, UAH has agreed to create an advisory board consisting of hockey alumni, local business leaders and major donors to help turn UAH Hockey into a world class hockey program.

That campaign has been given a signal boost by the program’s most famous alum, Flames goaltender Cam Talbot, who played for the team from 2007-10.

“The program meant a lot to me,” Talbot told NHL.com’s WIlliam Douglas. “I never thought that it would really kind of grow to allow me to live out my dream like I am now. I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity if I didn’t end up in Alabama.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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