Alaska-Anchorage confirmed that Air Force hockey will open its season at the Kendall Classic tournament this weekend despite the partial federal government shutdown, which entered its eighth day Wednesday morning.
The UAA announcement was made late Tuesday night.
AFA confirmed it with this short statement on Wednesday:
“The Academy is awaiting written final Department of Defense guidance, however, we have been advised that all Air Force Academy intercollegiate athletics may resume immediately. We owe it to our cadet athletes and opponents to honor our commitments in this regard. Athletics is one of the pillars of character and leadership development at the Air Force Academy. No appropriated funds will be used to fund these programs.”
Alaska Airlines provides Alaska-Anchorage opponents with 13 tickets as part of its naming rights contract for the school’s Alaska Airlines Center. UAA and the Air Force Academy Athletics Corp, a 501c3 nonprofit, then split the remaining 17 tickets for about $11,000 each.
“We had the 13 tickets available because Air Force was going to fly up using a military plane,” Hackett said. “It ended up being much more economical to split the remaining 17 with Air Force than them trying to come up with money for all 30.”
AFAAC paid for the remaining motel and food costs. A typical hockey road trip costs $30-35,000, CEO Dermot Coll said.
Hackett said the move was well worth it to keep four teams in the tournament, especially Air Force because the large military community in Anchorage helps fill the stands.
“It would have been very disappointing to our fans not to have Air Force in the tournament,” he said. “We would have had fans upset and asking for refunds. It is important for us to give our student-athletes the best possible experience. Our hockey players would not have had that without Air Force. It promises to be some great games.”
The Falcons play Alaska-Fairbanks at 7:07 p.m. MT Friday and take on the host Seawolves at 9:07 MT on Saturday. The team will leave Colorado Springs Wednesday afternoon.
“Despite the government shutdown, we are pleased to announce that we have worked with the Air Force Academy to accommodate their travel to Alaska,” Alaska-Anchorage athletic director Keith Hackett said in a news release. “Thanks also to the hard work of our staff and the assistance of our terrific corporate partners at Alaska Airlines, we will be able to provide a first-class experience for both our own student-athletes and those from the visiting teams.”
“We’re excited that everything is as scheduled,” said first-year Seawolves coach Matt Thomas. “We’ve been really looking forward to this weekend and prepared hard for it. This will be a great early test to start our season against some of the best competition in the country.”
“I know Frank is very pleased to have his season get underway,” Coll said.
The host Seawolves are the tournament’s two-time defending champions.