Foundation supports IceCats

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    By Jeremy Twitchell

    Hockey in Provo has a long and colorful history, but because of ongoing funding problems, it has never been a rich one.

    The recently-created BYU Hockey Foundation is hoping to change that.

    “Our intent is to create a program that is credible in every way,” said Tim Chou, a trustee for the foundation. “In terms of community support, funding, the behavior of the athletes and the performance on the ice.”

    The foundation was created in August with the goal of establishing an endowment of two million dollars. The endowment would allow the university to fund men and women”s teams using just the interest on the endowment.

    If successful, the foundation would end years of funding problems for hockey in Provo.

    Hockey at BYU began as a club sport in 1967. The sport caught on quickly, and by 1975, hockey was an official extramural program at BYU.

    The team continued to thrive through the ”70s, and created the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Hockey Association league in 1978.

    By 1984, however, the program became too large for its meager funding, and along with management difficulties, the team was shut down.

    “The breaks in activity are primarily because of funding problems,” Chou said. “Just like now, all the coaches are volunteers, and sometimes it”s difficult to get people to step up.”

    By 1994, there was enough interest to bring the team back, but BYU did not grant the team extramural recognition, and the team became an independent club team known as the Provo IceCats.

    Since the team”s return, the IceCats have steadily improved each season. The team won the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Hockey Association regular season title last year, and is off to a 6-1 start this year.

    Foundation members say that their ultimate goal is to establish a Division I hockey team at BYU, but that goal is still a long ways off.

    The foundation has not yet spoken to the BYU athletic department regarding the possibilities of a hockey team at BYU, because members say they want to see how much interest is in the community before they approach the administration.

    “We don”t want to talk to the BYU athletic department until we”re sure that we”re not wasting their time,” foundation chairman Edwin Gantt said. “We don”t want this to be a hypothetical situation. We want to raise the money first to show them that there is interest and support in the community.”

    “If we can”t raise the funds, that sends us a message and saves the administration time,” he said.

    Although the goals are big, foundation members say they know that it will take time to reach them, and are still focusing on just establishing the foundation.

    “Right now we”re in the phase of getting the word out,” Gantt said. “We have a number of people in the community ready and just waiting to put a date on their check, but we”re still waiting to see if we”ll be granted non-profit status.”

    If the foundation receives non-profit status, all donations will be tax-deductible. Gantt said the team should receive an answer from the IRS any day now.

    “We”re encouraged that there is a lot of interest so far,” Gantt said. “The word is getting out.”

    Many of those who have expressed an interest in supporting hockey at BYU have said they want to see a serious program first, and Gantt said he is confident that the IceCats can satisfy them.

    “A lot of corporations and potential donors want to see well-run, competitive team that is accountable in administration and funding,” Gantt said. “I have absolutely no doubt that the IceCats are capable of being that team.”

    However, Gantt also said the foundation is not just a fundraising front for just the IceCats, but rather for hockey at BYU in general.

    “I”d love to not only see a men”s team at BYU, but a women”s team as well,” Gantt said. “Be it a club team, a Division I team, whatever level we can reach.”

    With that in mind, another goal of the foundation is to help the Provo Blades, a local women”s club team, become a women”s hockey team at BYU. Not only would this raise interest in hockey in Provo, said Gantt, but would also resolve Title IX concerns.

    Although Gantt says the foundation”s goal of two million dollars will probably take two or three years to reach, he is confident that the support exists and the goal is reachable.

    “I think the support is out there,” he said. “We just need to drum it up and get it behind us.”

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