UAA is one of 64 universities with Division I hockey, but that’s not the only thing that makes Seawolf hockey special.
By Avery Williamson
Having a hockey program at UAA puts the university in an elite group. Out of the 204 universities in the United States that compete in at least one Division I sport, only 64 of these schools have hockey. Alaska has two of these programs.
UAA hockey is more than being a part of an elite group though–it’s the heart of the Anchorage community.
“When the program was cut by University officials in 2019 due to budget concerns, the hockey community came together to support the team,” said Seawolf 5th Line chairperson Kathie Bethard.
“Together, the community was successful in helping do what few thought was possible–raising more than $3 million in 10 months to have the team reinstated.”
The community’s dedication to bringing Seawolf hockey back is a testament to Anchorage’s dependency on the sport. Bethard credits this to the fact that “hockey is the fabric that unites Alaskan communities.”
The way fans came together to reinstate hockey proves it isn’t just a sport. It also facilitates a sense of community amongst Anchorage residents.
“The Avis Alaska Sports Complex brings vibrancy to the center of campus and serves as a gathering place for our community,” said UAA athletic director Ryan Swartwood.
But the team’s impact doesn’t end on the rink. It “goes beyond the campus and into the fabric of our community,” says Bethard.
“UAA hockey is the support network for youth hockey. After graduation, these young men donate countless numbers of hours coaching the youth of Anchorage, often producing other Division I athletes and NHL players.”
After disappearing for two years, changing management and adding a new roster, the Seawolves have found monumental success these past two seasons.
“Since reinstatement, Seawolf Hockey has been nationally recognized, even appearing in the Division I College Hockey rankings, as high as 36th in the October 30 rankings,” said Bethard.
Not only is this a huge achievement for the boys, but it also highlights the strength of our university.
“The young men who represent Seawolf Hockey travel across the United States spreading the word of UAA and showing the nation that we do have a great university and exciting sports teams to rally around,” said Bethard.
“An exciting hockey team, competing at the highest level in collegiate ranks, adds distinction to the university and gives a sense of pride to students when they wear the Seawolf logo.”
On top of this, having two strong hockey teams in our state makes a name for Alaska. “The Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup rivalry is widely known throughout college athletics,” said Swartwood.
At the time of this article, the UAA vs. UAF rivalry is ranked 10th on College Hockey News. “Having two hockey programs here in Alaska generates excellent awareness for our campuses.”
More important than competitiveness or good publicity is UAA’s roster of student-athletes. “Our student-athletes excel academically, athletically and socially,” said Swartwood.
“They achieve in their studies, with a 3.6 team grade point average. They’ve demonstrated tremendous growth on the ice, with victories over Penn State and Wisconsin. And they contribute to our community, with over 500 service hours last year,” said Swartwood.
Our university is lucky enough to have a DI hockey program to begin with, but on top of that, the sport does so much for Anchorage.
Seawolf hockey provides our city with a sense of community and brings awareness to the University of Alaska system–a feat that can only be conquered with supportive fans, dedicated sponsors, educated coaches and a roster full of dedicated players on and off the ice.
With this combination, it’s no wonder that Seawolf hockey is the heart of Anchorage.
After enjoying Winter Break with family and friends, the Seawolves return to the ice on Jan. 13 to take on Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks.
Anchorage fans are encouraged to join the official watch party at Las Margaritas, located at 541 W. Dimond Blvd.