In a way, it’s ironic. I’m a Winnipeg Jets fan, so when the Thrashers moved I didn’t exactly cheer, but I wasn’t too broken up about it either. That seemed to differ with the majority of the internet (understandably). Now that Huntsville is gone from the ranks of D-1 hockey it seems like the internet’s general reaction is a “well that’s too bad, but meh” whereas mine is much more sad.
Objectively, it makes sense that Huntsville would axe its D1 program. They haven’t drawn very well the past couple seasons, and even with the latest conference re-shuffling no one wanted to take them (seriously, WCHA?). As an independent, it was going to be nearly impossible to get teams to come down there to play a game that does them no good, and a program can’t exist playing 90% of its games on the road.
But still, it’s sad. It’s one thing to look up to a Thrashers player and say hey maybe that could be me some day, but it’s an entirely other, more attainable, goal to look at a UAH Charger and say “hey that could be me.” I’m not saying that UAH shutting its program will have a more adverse effect than the Thrashers moving, but it’s a lot more damaging to Southern hockey than a lot of people realize.
What’s more, it seems the brass has made this call irrespective of any outside opinion. Former UAH player Nathan Bowen helped raise over 500k to help keep the program but said that UAH interim president Malcolm Portera made the decision to cut the program without even speaking to him:
"“It’s just been amazing that one person has this much power to end 33 years of tradition,” Bowen said. “And it really is coming down to just him. It makes no sense to me.“He is completely disregarding the mayor, the people of Huntsville, the student council at UAH and 23 athletes that gave up opportunities to play at other places,” he continued. “He’s completely disregarding those people and going back to his home in Tuscaloosa. To me, it’s astounding.”"
Portera shouldn’t be the one to shoulder the blame here, but as an interim president I’m not sure he should be the one making the call in the first place.
I could wax on about other programs who should have done more to help Huntsville, and it would have been nice to see, but I can’t fault them for looking out for themselves here to be honest. With the potential to take multiple trips to Alaska in play, I can see why a Mankato wouldn’t want to add a trip to Huntsville to that.
Still, there’s no doubt this is a sad day for Huntsville and for Division 1 hockey as a whole. Eventually I think teams like Oklahoma and Arizona will go D1 in hockey and when that happens hopefully Huntsville will come back as well.