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University of Lethbridge committee to explore future of cancelled Pronghorns hockey programs

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WATCH: Less than two weeks after the University of Lethbridge announced the end of its Pronghorns hockey programs, the school has created a new committee that will explore the viability of reinstating the men’s and women’s teams under a new community funding model. Danica Ferris reports – Apr 29, 2020

The University of Lethbridge has announced a new committee that will explore future funding possibilities for the recently eliminated Pronghorns hockey programs, just nine days after the cut was made.

Last week the U of L made the surprise announcement that the men’s and women’s varsity hockey programs had been discontinued due to provincial budget cuts.

READ MORE: Pronghorns players react after elimination of U of L hockey programs: ‘People are devastated’

University President Mike Mahon said that the school had no choice but to make the unpopular decision.

“The university didn’t cut men’s and women’s hockey because it wanted to,” he said. “We’ve made significant decisions in terms of layoffs, in terms of closing programs like Pronghorns hockey because we have to.”

“The government has presented us with a budget that we cannot manage without making very significant reductions.”

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In a release, the university stated that since the fall, the school has eliminated more than 60 positions.

Mahon said the abruptness of the provincial cuts didn’t leave the school with enough time to explore ideas other than cuts.

“The speed at which the cuts — or the funding reductions — were introduced to us didn’t allow us to venture into this sort of consideration. And so we’re doing it after the fact because we now have time to explore,” he said.

READ MORE: University of Lethbridge cuts 42 positions following Alberta budget

The new committee consists of donors, alumni and representatives from the university, and is headed by U of L alumnus Dan Laplante, who committed $125,000 to the women’s hockey program in January.

Mahon said Laplante is one of a number of people in the U of L community advocating for the school to explore alternative funding models for hockey.

“Over the course of this past week I’ve had many conversations with alumni and donors, who have expressed their real interest in working with the university to explore whether there is a means of bringing hockey back to our campus using a community funding model,” Mahon said.

The committee will work to learn how other universities have successfully implemented alternative funding.

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“A couple that come to mind are the football program at the University of Regina that is community funded, and the hockey program at Lakehead University that is community funded,” Mahon said.

READ MORE: Pronghorns’ women’s hockey team thriving with clean slate, new coaching staff

But even with community desire to get the hockey teams back on the ice, U SPORTS rules will prevent that from happening quickly.

The rules dictate that universities that have discontinued the participation of their teams in the league must wait two years before applying for reinstatement.

So the soonest that Pronghorns athletes could return to U SPORTS hockey action would be the fall of 2022.

Laplante is the lone named member of the newly created committee, and in Wednesday’s statement the university said that other members will be announced in the coming weeks.