Anchorage — Crisis averted - UAA no longer has to contend with the prospect of enduring a slice of hockey hell.
The school announced Tuesday night that its season-opening Kendall Hockey Classic, in peril because Air Force's participation was threatened by the shutdown of the federal government, will proceed as planned.
UAA said the Falcons will fly north under a plan in which the cost of additional airline tickets Air Force required - UAA usually pays for 13 tickets per visiting team - will be split between UAA and Air Force. New Seawolves athletic director Keith Hackett estimated each school will need to come up with an additional $11,000 - he said Alaska Airlines, a sponsor of Seawolves athletics, proved helpful in the arrangement by securing airline seats for the Falcons.
The Falcons previously traveled to the Kendall, in which they have played twice previously in recent years, on a military plane. The shutdown thwarted the usual arrangement. The Falcons will fly commercial this time and are scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on Wednesday night.
Tuesday's announcement means UAA, UAF, Air Force and defending national runner-up Quinnipiac will open the Seawolves' signature hockey event at Sullivan Arena on Friday, when UAF plays Air Force and UAA meets Quinnipiac.
Saturday, UAF plays Quinnipiac and UAA plays Air Force.
The Falcons' participation was in doubt, and had they been absent UAA would have been forced to come up with an alternative format that would likely have been a letdown for fans, sponsors, athletes, the schools and all the folks who work behind the scenes to put on the event. One possible alternative would have had UAA and UAF each playing a game against Quinnipiac.
Also, an altered tournament likely would have reduced tournament revenue and might have forced UAA to refund money to fans.
Any such changes surely would have removed some luster from UAA's rebuilding under new bench boss Matt Thomas, and from the Seawolves' "It's a new day'' marketing campaign.
All those possibilities were rendered moot when UAA made its announcement Tuesday. Thus the two-time defending tournament champion Seawolves will get the chance to defend their title against a full tournament field.
"We're excited that everything is as scheduled,'' Thomas said is a UAA press release. "We've been looking forward to this weekend and prepared hard for it.''
UAA's tournament once was derailed by even odder circumstances. The 1989 edition was canceled by eruptions of Redoubt Volcano. That made travel dicey. UAF, Illinois-Chicago and Dartmouth were unsure they would arrive in time for the tournament and also whether they would be able to depart Anchorage in a timely fashion after the event.