Government shutdown could impact UAA hockey tournament

dwoody@adn.comOctober 3, 2013 

UAA remains in wait-and-see mode as the shutdown of the federal government threatens the Air Force Academy's participation in next weekend's season-opening Kendall Hockey Classic at Sullivan Arena.

The four-team tournament, featuring UAA, UAF, Air Force and Quinnipiac, last season's national runner-up, is set for Oct. 12-13.

UAA associate athletic director Tim McDiffett on Thursday said he and new athletic director Keith Hackett are in contact with Air Force officials.

"They are planning on coming,'' McDiffett said. "Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts. They have been awesome to work with. They badly want to be here and they are planning to be here. There is some uncertainty. It's a very unusual situation, obviously.''

McDiffett said UAA has discussed alternatives if Air Force is unable to travel to Anchorage, but declined to elaborate.

"I'd prefer not to speculate at this point,'' he said. "We've talked about options. We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. We have talked about a number of Plan Bs. If the shutdown ends (soon), it's a moot point.''

McDiffett said the school is primed for the Kendall Hockey Classic because it opens UAA's season -- the Seawolves are guided by a new coach in Matt Thomas, who would make his debut in the tournament -- and Air Force's participation helps foster a relationship with the military at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Also, the tournament is sponsored, and the school and tournament committee have long worked to organize the event.

The university system has several Air Force connections -- University of Alaska president Pat Gamble, UAA chancellor Tom Case and UAA vice chancellor Bill Spindle, who oversees Seawolves athletics, all attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Air Force is scheduled to play in the Kendall for the third time in the last four seasons and for the fifth time overall.

In a previous incarnation of the tournament in 1989, when it was known as the Nissan-Jeep Hockey Classic, an unusual event prompted its cancellation -- ash from the eruptions of Redoubt Volcano.

That year, flight delays because of the ash spewing from Redoubt meant Dartmouth and Illinois-Chicago could not guarantee arrival in Anchorage in time for the tournament or departure for home in a timely manner after the tournament.

That cancellation was especially frustrating for then-senior goaltender Chad Meyhoff of UAA. Meyhoff to that point had not started a meaningful Nissan-Jeep game in his career but was psyched to do so because he was riding a hot streak for the 15th-ranked Seawolves. Meyhoff memorably captured his chagrin in three words: "A bleeping volcano?''

A reminder of the tournament that wasn't hangs in the UAA athletic offices.

"We actually have a program on our wall for an event that never happened,'' McDiffett said.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

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