Brian Drewry/ Times Colonist
MAY 29, 2020 07:59 PM
Marty Westhaver has a new lease on his hockey life.
One week after being told the NCAA Div. 1 school the graduating Victoria Grizzlies captain had earned a scholarship to this fall was folding its men’s hockey program in a cost-cutting measure, news came down Friday that the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers had been given a reprieve thanks to cash donations from alumni and supporters of the program.
“This is exciting news,” said Westhaver, who finished his fourth season with the Grizzlies in March following a first-round playoff exit.
Westhaver thought his dream of playing NCAA Div. 1 hockey had ended when it was announced the school was discontinuing its hockey program due to the pandemic.
“It’s been a whirlwind week,” said Westhaver.
“This is a relief.”
Alabama-Huntsville athletic director Cade Smith said Friday that “numerous individual donors” had combined to raise more than $500,000 US this week to help save the program from the chopping block.
Two other gifts of $125,000 US each from longtime supporters Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski provided enough money to allow the Chargers to continue competing at the Div. 1 level for the 2020-21 season.
The $750,000 marks the largest athletic campaign contribution in UAH history.
University president Darren Dawson committed university money to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. Dawson says a new Hockey Advisory Board will work with supporters of the program and the university to fund hockey after next season.