UAH Hockey: Cautiously Optimistic About the Future

(Photo Credit-LSSU Athletics)

Alabama Huntsville Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed what has been rumored. The Chargers are awaiting word from the Atlantic Hockey Association on potentially joining it next season. This pitch, as John Buccigross first reported, includes a $25,000 per series subsidy for at least the next ten years to help all institutions defray the costs of coming to Huntsville. This per-series subsidy also includes all playoff series that UAH would host. With this being one of the biggest barriers to joining the conference, having the financial support, and institutional backing, combined with a plan to scale the revenue opportunities for UAH was a critical first step to get this program where it wants, which is a new conference home.

For scheduling purposes, the Chargers could potentially play an unbalanced schedule, should they be awarded membership in Atlantic Hockey, as a way to see every team come to the Von Braun Center at least every other season, while further reducing the time and travel burdens that this would impose for the more northern members of the league, like Sacred Heart. This would limit the need for teams to travel outside of the northeast, still give UAH plenty of opponents to play, and ensure that its fans see the entire conference take on the Chargers in Huntsville ideally at least every two seasons.

At the end of the day, Smith said that, for the current members of the conference that “it’s a bottom line conversation,” and also noted of a potential announcement his increased optimism in the past few weeks. The members have all seen Alabama Huntsville’s pitch, and should have a decision on it in a few weeks. The timeline to approve or deny the pitch has been somewhat delayed due to schools dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks that have come in waves over different teams.

Throughout this process, Smith has had conversations with key figures in Atlantic Hockey, including its Commissioner Robert M. DeGregorio, Jr. who has been nothing but supportive in the quest for Alabama Huntsville to become a member. Smith did note the reality of this process, that is, it is a decision for its members to make, not its leader. Seven members need to approve the application to have the Chargers become the twelfth member of a league, and give it a foothold in the southeast United States. From the beginning of this process, Alabama Huntsville, and those working with it on the Advisory Board have had nothing but praise for the league office in giving them a chance to lay out their vision for the future. As part of that vision, and in their pitch, the Chargers have included concepts for an on campus arena. Building this would only happen if the Chargers could find a new conference home.

In addition to the reality faced by Alabama Huntsville and the consistent support received by its administration, Smith has received mentorship from potential future conference mates . He has talked with athletic administrators at Army West Point, who have provided assistance in crafting the pitch, along with key figures at Robert Morris University, new home of former UAH Head Coach, Mike Corbett.

From a competitive standpoint, Atlantic Hockey also makes sense, as the Chargers would be facing a few of their old CHA rivals, and forge new ones. Alabama Huntsville would face off against rivals Niagara, Robert Morris, and Air Force, in addition to eight other up and coming programs across the east coast. Smith has been encouraged to see the competitive nature of the team this year, and thinks that their revival has helped his department at large. Of this fact he said, “some of our fans that have gone to other sports have bought some tickets to hockey this year.”

That is, Alabama Huntsville fans of their other superb Division Two programs are starting to come out to see their only division one offering this year. Through all of this, Smith and the Chargers are doing their best to be flexible, and work to adress any concerns of Atlantic Hockey members as they arise, while providing a glimpse into a new market for this conference. All those rooting for Alabama Huntsville can do now is wait.

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UAH to the CCHA: Why it Works

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.

Expansion Draft Three Thoughts

The NHL Expansion Draft is now complete. The Vegas Golden Knights have their initial roster. They selected 30 players and traded for a few more. By the end of the night Vegas ended up with 12 picks in the 2017 draft. Five of those picks are in the first two rounds. Here are some quick thoughts on what took place tonight.

  • Why on earth did Florida give up Reily Smith just to lose a 30 goal scorer in Jonathan Marchessault? I get that Florida is not a cap team, but in my mind you cannot justify giving up a player who is just a year removed from a 50 point season in a third line role. Smith will bring some needed depth scoring to Vegas right away. To me this was the worse trade of the night for a team losing a player to the Golden Knights. While yes, the Panthers gained five million dollars in cap room, they lost two promising players who can score with some regularity. The Panthers still have a bright outlook next year, but they now need a bit more out of their up and comers and have to hope Jaromir Jagr comes back for another season. Florida just gave up 88 points between the two from last season to rid themselves of five million dollars in cap room.
  • Look for Vegas to pick up another goalie or more shortly. Tonight they selected Calvin Pickard, Marc-Andre Fleury, and J.F Berube. Berube was selected as part of a deal with the Islanders where Vegas also took on the contract of injured forward Mikhail Grabovski, and Jake Bischoff. The former Isles goalie has an expiring contract, and Vegas needs multiple goalies for its AHL and ECHL teams. Pickard is a serviceable backup that can start when called upon. Look for the Golden Knights to draft multiple goalies as well. Jake Oettinger out of Boston University would be one possible choice for them. He could move through their system quickly and start for them in three years.
  • Vegas has a lot of options with some of the players it picked up. Teams are willing to pay a premium for quality defenseman like Marc Methot, and Vegas wants more picks and assets to help them build for the future. Dallas has let teams know they are looking at moving their third pick and need help on their blue line. The Golden Knights have plenty of options and could put together a package to get that pick.



A Snarky Sentence-30 Quips on the NHL

With the NHL season starting tonight here is a quick one sentence outlook for each NHL team. It will be snarky, it may not be nice, and its all in good fun. Plus I guarantee I will be wrong on at least half of these sentences by the end of the season.

Eastern Conference -(team order is random… not projecting order of finish)

  1. Atlantic Division
    1. Toronto
      1. Give up hat tricks for Patrick? (Brandon forward  Nolan Patrick who is the projected number one pick as of today).
    2. Boston
      1. Slow and slower…the 2016-2017 Zdeno Chara experience.
    3. Florida
      1. Father time leads the future.
    4. Ottawa
      1. Scoring not named Karlsson..does enough of it exist?
    5. Detroit
      1. Everybody gets another first round playoff exit!
    6. Canadiens
      1. Is Price alright?
    7. Tampa Bay
      1. Win now because not enough not enough money exists to pay for later.
    8. Buffalo
      1. So many free agents, so little depth.
  2. Metropolitan
    1. Carolina
      1. Can they Ward off last place?
    2. Pittsburgh
      1. How many weapons does Crosby need?
    3. Washington
      1. Any year now Ovie.
    4. New York Islanders
      1. Who steps up with Tavares?
    5. New York Rangers
      1. The king needs more scoring to help in defending the Garden.
    6. Columbus
      1. Does Bob still have it?
    7. Flyers
      1. Can Hak do it again?
    8. New Jersey Devils
      1. Help out Schneider, please.
  3. Pacific
    1. Anaheim
      1. What can Randy do that Bruce couldn’t?
    2. Los Angeles
      1. How much grit can one team have?
    3. Edmonton
      1. Larsson may be good, but he’s no Hall.
    4. Calgary
      1. Can Elliot stop the goalie carousel?
    5. Vancouver
      1. So fast, so little secondary scoring.
    6. San Jose
      1. Can Bodker speed a return to the Cup?
    7. Arizona
      1. So fast,so skilled, so unproven.
  4. Central
    1. Chicago
      1. So many rookies, so much leadership,Western Conference Finals?
    2. Minnesota
      1. Slow, overpaid, and no depth.
    3. Colorado
      1. Can the defense help out?
    4. Winnipeg
      1. People should ham up Laine’s skills more.
    5. Dallas
      1. Seguin will be sensational.
    6. St. Louis
      1. The Tarasenkshow continues.
    7. Nashville
      1. P.K. will play well, can Rinne still produce?