Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography
This week, shortly after our piece detailing why the Chargers of Alabama Huntsville should come to Atlantic Hockey, John Buccigross of ESPN noted that the Chargers were pitching the 11 team conference, and one filled with seven of their CCHA mates, and soon to be Division One St. Thomas, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association or CCHA. They are pitching a travel subsidy of about $25,000 per series. This would allow the conferences rising away from the WCHA to keep a similar arrangement to what happens now, where the Chargers and the two schools in Alaska subsidize travel. This subsidy should make both of their pitches more attractive, as anyone from Atlantic Hockey Association told us on social media after our last piece, that lack of funding from UAH for away games in Huntsville would make things a lot less attractive to that conference.
In addition to this newfound ability to continue the subsidy, thanks to alumni and institutional support, combined with playing some guarantee games for low five figure payouts, the Chargers also would be playing teams like Bemidji State with whom they have plenty of history with, just like their College Hockey America History with teams like Robert Morris. The difference is in the level of vitriol the Chargers and their rivals have for one another when both entities are good. There is more history in the CCHA with common teams like Bemidji State. This long established rivalry, combined with familiarity of fanbases provides immediate support for this
Also, the conference, the teams, and the logistics of everything are inherently familiar to the Chargers. They will not have to re plan travel life overnight before next season. It is doable but something else to consider, it is a small fact, but the Advisory Board who is working on securing a new conference is looking at every detail of the two most important pitches this program has to make this year to set their future up the right way.
With all of this being said, hopefully we hear some news to the good for the Chargers soon. The program would not have even been allowed to operate with the Advisory Board it has unless said board was capable of getting the Chargers a new conference home for next season. Priority one was getting the financial support for the team in the long run to raise base line funding to ensure external stakeholders in any conference see the financial commitment to the program. Priority two is getting a new conference.
Two options exist, both Atlantic Hockey and the CCHA have strong pluses to them, and both would offer the chargers a competitive chance to work to building this program back to the time when Cam Talbot was leading them to the NCAA tournament. Two paths back to the mountaintop this program has experienced before exist, we now await to see which paths will open for the Chargers to ride forward into their future on.