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Detailed Club History
Thursday, 29 June 2017

Detailed History

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ice Hockey Club was formed in 1970. Two people approached the Recreation Department of the University regarding the formation of such a club, ironically on the same day and within approximately 2 hours of each other. Then the Department of Recreation gave both parties the other’s name and told them to contact one another. This is when Steve Spady, a senior and Steve Jacobs, a freshman met and laid out a game plan. The two met with then Athletic Director Bob Devaney and found out that the sport could only be played as a club at UNL due to Title IX constraints. The paperwork was started and within a year, the UNL Hockey Club elected officers, had tryouts, got one set of red uniforms provided by the university Recreation Departments and played their first game against Iowa State University after an Omaha Knights home game in Omaha. The during the next few seasons the team grew and played games with other, at that time, Big 8 teams such as Colorado and Kansas while also continuing to play Iowa State and other local teams Creighton, UNO, Drake,Dordt College. However, the team had to practice and play home games in Omaha which created a hardship. After searching and not finding a permanent faculty member to continue organization of the team they faded away after the graduation of Steve Jacobs. In 1974 Mark Champion captain of the 72-74 teams discovered that the State Fair Coliseum had the correct foot print to hold an ice rink. Mark worked with the State Fair Board and John Skold, Director of the State Fair, for the next twenty years to come up with a funding plan to renovate the Coliseum for ice. During this time period LISA (Lincoln Ice Skating Association) was formed to bring a structured group to help with getting ice in Lincoln. Mark, now an architect, came up with some solutions but finding the money to get it done proved elusive. It was sort of a Catch 22 with potential investors wanting proof of interest but to show proof we needed the ice. So an idea was formed to put ice in an unheated building on the fair grounds, Exhibition Hall. A lot of work was done with some funding from the Fair Board and after months of work the rink was ready to go and ice was available for a day then the weather betrayed the plan and was never cold enough the rest of the winter to keep ice. The good thing was the amount of people who responded to the rink was tremendous and showed the powers that be the level of interest there was in having an indoor ice facility in Lincoln. The next step was to get a bond issue on the next ballad and let the people of Lincoln decide what they want. LISA was met with resistance from city government who would not put it on the ballad so the group went to the public to get the required number of signatures to force it on the ballad. Again the public showed it’s support for the arena in that the signatures were easily obtained. However, certain members of the city council being against this bond issue used their powers to defeat the bond issue which was for $1M to put ice into the State Fair Coliseum. These city powers did this because they had another agenda where they wanted a baseball park through a separate bond and felt this ice arena would prevent that. Consequently their lack of backing the ice arena bond issue caused failure at election and the idea faded. In a final effort Mark Champion went to Terry Fairfield, president of the University of Nebraska Foundation, to see if Terry knew of anyone who may have an interest in hockey and the financial ability to get something built. Terry found Tim Moylan who as an investor built the double sheet Tranquility Park facility in Omaha. They were able to build that facility because there was no land costs due to it being on city park land. Tim felt the same thing could be done at State Fair Park if the land was at no cost. After a meeting with John Skold, State Fair Park Director the idea of a new arena on State Fair Park (SFP) was formed. However, at that time the SFP was not able to lease any of its property to private entities. So John Skold went to the state legislation and got it changed to allow leasing of SFP land and facilities. With that ability it also forced SPF to open the idea to all developers. This brought in two other potential developers making the total three. During the time it took to get the ability to lease the land from the SPF the developers dropped to one which ended up being the Lincoln Stars organization that leased the Stair Fair Coliseum and in 1994 renovated it into the Ice Box geared for their use. The plan was not designed with public use or tournaments in mind and so it limited it to local teams use. With Coach Larry Taylor in place Mark Champion formed a small group of interested parties to get some more ice in Lincoln. The group included Will Scott, Mike Ayars, & Mark Champion. As the group worked towards some concepts on how to get it done others became involved and the group grew to represent the city of Lincoln Parks and Rec Dept, the University of Nebraska Rec Dept, and the University of Nebraska Foundation. After three years a larger donor, John Breslow, through the University of Nebraska Foundation presented a gift of $7M to build a new ice facility for the city of Lincoln and all public uses. The Breslow Ice Center is now under design.

Where we want to go

Compete in the ACHA Division II level to go to regional and national championship tournaments. With the new Breslow Ice Center in Lincoln Nebraska the team will be able to play home games in Lincoln and work to draw large crowds. The new ice center will provide many of the amenities that potential recruits would like to have such as permanent locker rooms, training room, players study lounge, equipment storage, for Men’s and Women’s hockey at Nebraska The operating expenses for the team will be a continuing effort each year to provide the funding necessary to play each season. We need to find ways to raise enough money to cover our games each year and establish this team as a growing entity. With the new Ice Center we will be able to build up our fan base by having home games in a local arena where we can sell merchandise and game programs,. Also a booster has been form to help raise needed funds each year.

Other Teams in Nebraska - UNO Mavericks & Lincoln Stars

These two hockey teams are at different levels and age groups than the University of Nebraska. The University of Nebraska – Omaha Mavericks are a Division I level NCAA team which is the highest level of collegiate hockey. The Lincoln Stars are a Tier I level team of 16 to 20 year old players in the United States Hockey League (USHL). Most of the USHL players are looking to get scholarships to NCAA Division I schools or move on to a pro level team. Nebraska will be looking to gain players for our team from the USHL players that do not receive a scholarship or move to pros. There are three USHL teams in Nebraska where we hope to entice players to attend Nebraska because at 20 years old they will be eligible for instate tuition by working part time jobs and playing here for their respective teams. This also helps the University of Nebraska by bringing students to the university that would not attend without the hockey team. We feel the people of Lincoln are ready for a different level of hockey. What they have been seeing with the Stars are highly skilled but still young players where fighting is allowed. Collegiate hockey has very little fighting due to the rules in place to prevent it. Consequently it is a fast hard hitting game where players skills are emphasized and not their fighting ability.

ACHA History

The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) is an organization of College/University affiliated programs, which provides structure, regulates operations and promotes the quality of collegiate ice hockey. The ACHA is a chartered non-profit corporation and is classified as a 501 (c) (3) organization with the Internal Revenue Service. The ACHA was established on April 20, 1991. Fifteen charter members met during the Chicago Showcase in Skokie, IL at the North Shore Hilton. These member teams had been playing college hockey for many years but wished to legitimize its play by standardizing some of its procedures. The ACHA has become the big game on many college campuses. With more than 350 college non-varsity teams currently suiting up from coast to coast under the banner of USA Hockey, the ACHA has done a great job of shedding the “club” references, and the stigma that goes with it. When it comes to the ACHA, seeing is believing. The sport continues to grow in stature and status as very good players are turning to the ACHA as a means to continue playing the game they grew up with as they earn a first class education. While ACHA is a non-varsity organization and as such does not provide scholarships, many players have some sort of academic or other financial aid or scholarship in place coming out of high school where if they are a resident of that state, they get in-state tuition, bringing down the cost even more. The inaugural year of the ACHA was the 1991-1992 season. The goal of the organization was to create an impartial governing body to monitor national tournaments, player eligibility, and general oversight. Over the years, this initial goal has evolved into the organization's mission statement: The ACHA's primary mission is to support the growth of two-year and four-year collegiate hockey programs nationwide; The ACHA identifies standards that serve to unite and regulate teams at the collegiate level; The ACHA shall emphasize academic performance, institutional sanction, eligibility criteria, and standards of play and opportunities for national competition; and the ACHA promotes all aspects of collegiate hockey stressing the personal development of individual athletes as well as national recognition for member organizations.