Hockey alumni prepared to fight for beloved Alberta program

Click to play video: 'Vikings alumni working to save Camrose hockey program' Vikings alumni working to save Camrose hockey program
WATCH ABOVE: The University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose is facing a nearly 18 per cent funding cut in the wake of the UCP budget. That means everything is under review, including all sports programs. But as Quinn Phillips reports, alumni are now working to save the program. – Mar 4, 2020

The University of Alberta Augustana Campus in Camrose has been rocked by a 17.9 per cent budget cut by the province.

Administration was expecting 11.9 per cent, but after last Thursday’s provincial budget was tabled, it has had to completely rethink how to absorb the cuts.

“It’s chaotic across the whole campus,” said Tim Hanson, Augustana’s assistant dean of external relations.

“Now we’re probably looking at some significant numbers of people in addition trying to just find the things that will work through attrition and so forth.”

Everything is under the microscope, including the school’s athletic programs: men’s and women’s volleyball, basketball, soccer, cross country and men’s hockey.

Hockey has taken a bit of a spotlight. On Sunday, the Vikings Hockey Alumni Association sent a letter to its members with concerns that men’s hockey could see the axe.

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Vikings hockey has a rich history in Camrose, Alta. The college hockey team won its first national championship back in 1975.

In 1981 came the Viking Cup, which was an international tournament that ran every two years until 2006.

Over 300 of the international athletes that competed went on to be drafted to the NHL.

“I think that the community is extremely proud of everything that the Vikings have accomplished,” said Dave Ritz, president of the alumni association.

No final decisions have been made by the school on the cuts, but administration is reaching out to the alumni group.

“We know we have the strong group of alumni that might be able to do something about it,” said Hanson.

“We consider this to be part of our due diligence. We need to seek every option, we need to turn every stone.”

The hope is that the alumni association can find a way to fund hockey and create a self-sufficient program.

So far, reaction to the letter has been strong.

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“I usually look at them (emails) once a day and go, ‘Oh look, I got an email today,” said Ritz. “The last two, three days has been unbelievable — I must have sent 100 emails.”

The alumni executive haven’t had a lot of time to come up with a plan because it was only in early February that they became aware of the potential cuts.

The hope is to raise enough money, around $100,000, for an extension of the program next year and then continue to build a fund of some type for the foreseeable future.

READ MORE: NAIT to cut up to 240 jobs in wake of Alberta post-secondary funding reduction

The United Conservative government released its second budget last Thursday and funding for post-secondary is going down.

Advanced Education’s budget is $5.1 billion in 2020-21, a six-per cent cut from the forecast in the last budget. Budget 2020 implements the first phase of a new funding model that includes base funding from the province but is also based on a school’s performance.

Over three years, the UCP will trim Advanced Education spending by 10 per cent to “encourage post-secondary institutions to find efficiencies,” the budget document said.

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