Seattle Kraken, donors step in to help reinstate University of Alaska Anchorage's hockey program

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Hockey is returning to the University of Alaska Anchorage after donors, including the NHL's newest team, raised over $3 million after the program was eliminated.

"It's a great day to be a Seawolf," UAA chancellor Sean Parnell said Tuesday when announcing the team would return to the ice for the 2022-23 season. "It's our day to celebrate the reinstatement of the program."

The team will need a year to regroup after losing its coach and players in the past 12 months, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The Alaska Board of Regents cut the program last year, but said it could be saved if supporters raised $3 million -- or the amount needed to cover two years of operating costs.

The Save Seawolf Hockey fundraising campaign met that goal Monday.

Among the 1,140 donors were the NHL's Seattle Kraken, which kicked in about $150,000 from the team and individuals associated with it to keep the college program alive. The Kraken also launched their own Save the Seawolves campaign.

Kathie Bethard was chair of the fundraising campaign. They raised money by hosting hockey tournaments, hockey camps, golf tournaments, silent auctions and reaching out to any potential source.

"It wouldn't have happened if the hockey community wouldn't have stepped up and believed we could get this done," Bethard said. "Thank you to everyone who donated, from $2 to $250,000."

Alaska Anchorage won't just have to find players and a coach in the next year; it will also have to find opponents. Both Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks were members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which has disbanded.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," UAA athletic director Greg Myford said.

UAA was not alone in enduring tough times as a program through the pandemic. Robert Morris University, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, cut its men's and women's hockey programs in May, less than two months after the Colonials hosted the NCAA Men's Frozen Four.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.