LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- The University of Lethbridge has pulled the plug on its men's and women's varsity hockey programs as part of the ongoing effort to reduce the institution's operating budget.

The decision to end the school's hockey programs was announced Monday morning. In their statement U of L officials said it’s but "one of a number of budget reduction strategies in response to unprecedented cuts from the provincial government."

"We have had to make several difficult decisions in the past few months and this one is equally challenging," said Mike Mahon, U of L president and vice-chancellor. "The Pronghorn hockey programs have been a source of great pride for our athletes, students, alumni, donors, sponsors, the campus community and supporters throughout southern Alberta.

"I know this news will significantly impact everyone associated with these programs."

Forward Torrin White took to Twitter following the announcement and said the university's decision came as a shock to both players and coaches.

University officials say the ending of the hockey programs follows three years of successive reductions to the school's operating grant and more than 60 positions within the school have been eliminated in the last six months as a result of budget restraints.

"This is not a rash decision and it's the last option we want to pursue, but it's also necessary to ensure the viability of the university and the sustainability of Pronghorn Athletics," said Mahon "It is unusual for a school of our size to fund as many teams as we have. My hope is with a concentrated focus on remaining Pronghorn programs, we can continue to provide our student athletes with a robust and meaningful experience."

The U of L has restructured its sports and recreation services department and eliminated its executive director position. The school will continue to fund its remaining Pronghorns athletics programs including basketball, track and field, swimming and rugby.