From The Crimson White
By Ashlee Woods and Haley Taylor
As hockey has grown in popularity, so have the costs required to play high-level hockey — especially in the South, where players have to fight for every inch of ice.
The University of Alabama club hockey team started in 2005, and it’s one of 30 student-led club sports at the University. The team competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. At its inception, the team competed in ACHA Division III. It was promoted to Division I in 2015.
According to the ACHA, the cost for a men’s Division I player was $2,000 in 2020. That cost includes fees like registration for the season. Additional costs include travel expenses, gas to get to and from practice, and equipment.
The team’s existence has allowed hockey, a sport not typically associated with the South, to grow at the University. It has provided an avenue for hockey players from across the country to compete at a high level.
Now, Alabama hockey is fighting to stay on the ice.
Since the hockey team is a club sport, it does not receive any funding from the University. Athletes are typically paying for school and to play the sport they love.
A group named Friends of Alabama Hockey launched a fundraiser on Aug. 9 to keep the team’s 2021 season alive. The fundraiser said the team needs to raise $18,000 by Sept. 1 for travel expenses, dues and locker room space.
More than 50 donors had raised $7,500 by Sunday, Aug. 22.
One of the challenges for student-athletes competing in a club sport is the financial obligation. According to the fundraiser, the COVID-19 pandemic made costs even worse.
“Due to a COVID stricken 2019-20 year, the team was unable to play and generate revenue to cover accumulated facility fees,” the organizer said in the description. “Additionally, rising ice time fees and travel expenses are creating financial hardships for our team and upcoming season.”
The hockey team’s fundraiser reflects challenges that other club sports face. Last year, the Alabama equestrian team was informed that it would no longer receive funding from the University. The team started a Change.org petition, which has over 20,000 signatures.
“In the event that the team transitions to a club sport, dues and other fees will increase dramatically without the support from the University of Alabama, possibly making it unaffordable and inaccessible to current, returning and future members,” Abigayle Kneebone wrote in the petition.
Similar to other teams across the ACHA, Alabama’s team practices, plays and stores its equipment off campus. The team’s home on the ice is in Pelham, Alabama, at the Pelham Civic Complex.
The rink is about 50 miles east of Tuscaloosa. The athletes drive one hour to practice twice a week. When there is a home game, students and local fans drive an hour to see Alabama compete.
Delaney Galbraith, Alabama hockey’s head of marketing, said its fan base wants to see the team succeed.
“There are many people who are dedicated to this program and want to see it thrive, and by getting the donations needed, it can not only keep the program alive but also be able to allow us to give the players, the interns that run the staff, and the fan base a season like no other and help save the locker room,” Galbraith said to Tide 100.9. “This program means so much to everyone involved. I just want to be able to show everyone why Alabama hockey matters.”
(Originally published at https://cw.ua.edu/82544/sports/alabama-hockey-fights-to-stay-on-the-ice/)