Advisory committee chair confident University of Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey will return
The chair of the Hockey Advisory Committee at the University of Lethbridge says he is confident the school's teams will return to the ice. (Courtesy University of Lethbridge Pronghorns)
LETHBRIDGE -- It’s a matter of when and not if University of Lethbridge Pronghorns hockey returns, says the chair of the Hockey Advisory Committee, which was established in April, soon after it was announced the men’s and women’s programs would be cut due to budget constraints.
Committee members were announced on Monday, representing various viewpoints related to the hockey programs, the university, and the community.
Chair Dan Laplante says he has already received positive feedback from people supportive of the hockey teams returning.
“I’m thrilled that we’ve got the members that have agreed to serve," he said. "There is a strong commitment, and there are a lot of people who have reached out that want to support Pronghorns men’s and women’s hockey, but that don’t have the capacity or time to serve on the committee."
Committee members include Dean Gallimore, the finance rep on the U of L board of governors, advancement rep Terry Whitehead and Pronghorn athletic director Neil Langevin.
Community members include Perry Neufeld, Toby Boulet, Jerry LeGrandeur, Dino Caputo and Kathy Hopkins.
Sam Schneyder and Lesley Burton will represent the women’s alumni group and PJ Lynch and Reese St. Goddard will represent the men’s alumni.
University president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon, believes it was important for them to establish a committee that has broad representation.
“To take into account the many stakeholders connected to the hockey programs," he said.
"Given Dan’s reputation as a long-time supporter of the University and Pronghorn Athletics, his appointment as Chair was very well received and elicited a lot of interest in the committee."
After serious pushback from alumni and members of the community following the initial decision, the committee was announced with the purpose of exploring the re-establishment of both a men's and women's hockey program at the university, supported by a sustainable community-based funding model.
Laplante says they’ll be looking at other programs in the country that have had success using different kinds of community-based models.
“Probably the best example in Alberta is the University of Calgary Dinos football team, in terms of a community-supported USports team in our province," he said.
"Lakehead University (in Thunder Bay) in terms of their hockey programs, which are a partnership between the university and a not-for-profit, as well as the University of Regina football team.”
The Hockey Advisory Committee will sit over the next 18 months before releasing any findings. When the university withdrew its hockey teams from Canada West play, it meant they cannot be reinstated in the conference for two years, which means the earliest possible date for a return to play for the Pronghorns would be the 2022-23 season.
Laplante is confident they’ll be ready with a plan well in advance of that date.
“This is very doable, we’re going to bring Pronghorns hockey back,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if it’s coming back, it’s just a matter of when. In terms of the timeline, I don’t anticipate the committee needing that much time to put forward recommendations to the executive.”
When the committee is ready to submit its recommendations, they will present them to the president’s executive council.
The president and vice-chancellor will then decide and approve if any or which recommendations will be presented to the University’s Board of Governors for a final decision.