A new era in ice hockey begins at UA; Icecats are no more

Ice hockey at the University of Arizona is coming in from the cold.

The program, run as an independent corporation for the past 32 years, will finally be aligned with other club sports on campus.  The team, formerly called the Icecats, will get new uniforms emblazoned with the Arizona “A” logo.

A new name.  New uniforms.  A new website.  And the full support of the university as a club sport.

Life is good on the frozen field of play in the Tucson desert.

The dramatic changes have reportedly come about following a fall-out with the Icecats’ coach, Leo Golembiewski, who founded the program in 1979 and has been the head coach ever since.

Now, the UofA Campus Recreation department will oversee the initial funding of the program, but the college administration is quick to point out that the money will not come from taxes or tuition.  Corporate sponsors will be sought out, they say, and players will pay dues.

The new name: Arizona Wildcat Ice Hockey.

Under the club format, students will manage the program.  They will administer their own budget, assist in the fund-raising, and elect their own coaches and support staff.

A national search is underway to replace Golembiewski, who is reportedly considering taking legal action to challenge the University’s decision to take over the program he began more than three decades ago.  David Dougall, an alumnus and former hockey assistant coach, is helping the school with the transition.

The move to partner with Campus Recreation brings with it a number of upgrades.  The team will now be able to take advantage of the same branding opportunities as the 30 other club sports, such as fund-raising and trademark usage.

And now the team will be able to compete for the right to go to the national college tournament each year.  The additional funding will also allow for more road trips and enable the school to bring in more competitive teams.

The one thing that likely won’t change is the venue.  It is expected that the team will be able to continue using the Tucson Convention Center in downtown Tucson for its home games.

So, warm up the Zamboni.  A schedule of approximately 30 games is projected for the first season of club hockey.

But, for the first time in more than 600 games, the old Icecats will be skating as the new Wildcats.