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Hockey program announced due to vast broomball talent

UNK Hockey Image / Antelope Staff

UNK is adding a men’s ice hockey program to its athletic department. The sport will also include renovations to the Health and Sports Center for the second summer in a row. 

Athletic Director Bark Meower is excited about the addition. 

“This wasn’t something we planned on doing at all,” Meower said. “But I was recently able to attend some intramural broomball games at the Viaero Center and after seeing the talent, I knew immediately that the athletic department needed to expand.” 

The program was added quickly after Meower’s visit to broomball, only taking 14 hours to propose and approve the new sport. 

UNK is looking for head coaching candidates, but the public seems to believe that the job is former NHL star Wayne Gretzky’s to lose. Gretzky had a successful playing career with the Oilers, but is rumored to be asking UNK for $9.3 million a year to coach. 

Bark Meower declined to speak on Gretzky or any contract negotiations. 

Nonetheless, the Health and Sports Center will get a complete redo in order to accommodate a hockey rink. In order to pay for the renovations, the athletic department has decided to put the brand-new digital screens and jumbotron up for sale on eBay. 

“It was truly a business decision,” Mewoer said. “The old scoreboards worked just fine, and with the sale of the newer screens, we will be able to afford an ice rink.” 

Originally, UNK wanted to play their home games at the Viaero Center but was unable to strike a deal. 

UNK will be competing at the Division I level, despite other sports competing at the Division II level. This will be similar to other Division II schools such as Bemidji State University or St. Cloud State University. 

Broomball Intramural Champion and rumored captain of the team, Gus Rooster has started his training. 

“It’s not that different but really different from broomball,” Rooster said. “I keep slipping and falling because of the skates, but the goal is still the goal. Once I learn how to skate and stay out of the penalty box, I should be okay.”

Rooster led the broomball league with 46 goals, 18 assists and 54 penalty minutes this past year. The rest of the team will likely be filled by broomball all-stars, not recruits.

UNK’s schedule for next season has already been released. The Lopers begin at a tournament in Denver, Colorado on Oct. 6. In a four-team round-robin, UNK will hit the ice against Denver University, Colorado College and Arizona State University over the weekend with one game per day. The games will take place at Ball Arena, where the Colorado Avalanche plays.

“We are excited for the Lopers to be represented in Ball Arena,” Mewoer said. “It’s a great venue that will be filled with many hockey fans.”

Another game-filled weekend for the Lopers will be Oct. 13-15. On that first day, the Lopers will travel to Anchorage, Alaska to compete with the Seawolves. At the completion of the game, the Lopers get back in the air quickly, as they play in Huntsville, Alabama against the University of Alabama in Huntsville Chargers on Oct. 14. UAH is the furthest southeastern hockey team in the NCAA. Finally, the Lopers play on Oct. 15 against the University of Alaska Fairbanks to play the Nanookes, who are the furthest north NCAA team. After flying home, the Lopers will have flown over 24 hours during the weekend. 

“I’m excited for that weekend,” Rooster said. “I’ve never flown before, so the time in the air will get me used to it.”

The Lopers look to hit the ground skating with spring practices starting next week. Tryouts are on Saturday, but only broomball champions are allowed to attempt to make the team.

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