As the winter months begin and Christmas approaches, it’s hockey season now more than ever. Unfortunately for Auburn Tigers fans, the team will be on hiatus during the university’s winter break, spanning from Dec. 10 2021 to Jan. 12 2022. Still, that just means that this is a great time for learning about the team and the game, getting caught up on the season, and generally growing your understanding of hockey so that when the games come back around, you can watch as an informed and engaged observer.
This column will function akin to a newsletter, featuring recurring segments and coming out weekly on Fridays. I hope that the content contained within will appeal to those new to hockey, those familiar with it, Auburn fans, and existing fans of Auburn Hockey in particular.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s hop in.
First Period: Q&A
I’ve noticed that part of the problem with getting into Auburn’s hockey team is that there’s simply not enough information about where they play, who they play, etc. To answer some of those common questions, I’m opening this week’s edition up with a Q&A.
What exactly is this team? I didn’t know we had a hockey program.
Auburn Hockey is a club sports program that runs through the Auburn University’s Campus Recreation department. The team plays with 86 other programs in the Collegiate Hockey Federation, one of two college club hockey leagues (the other being the ACHA, which Auburn formerly played within). The Tigers compete in the Southeastern Collegiate Hockey Conference, or the SECHC, against 15 teams from the southeastern United States.
The current iteration of Auburn’s hockey team has been around since 2010, when a bunch of students who wanted to play the game they loved banded together and created the program from scratch. Prior to that, there were small-circuit club teams that played near the university independently, but no unifying programs existed.
Who does the team play?
Auburn mainly goes up against SECHC teams; the current members of the conference are Georgia, Georgia Tech, FAU, South Carolina, MTSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Clemson, Alabama, Florida, Vanderbilt, Lynn, Kennesaw State, Florida State, and UAH. However, just like the football team and basketball team, they’ll play non-conference competition, too. This season has seen noncon games against ERAU and UCF, for example.
Where do these guys play? Last I checked, Auburn hadn’t built an ice rink.
The players drive all the way out to Columbus, Ga. to play and practice. While normally housed in “The Ice Rink,” a smaller facility attached to the side of the Columbus Civic Center, COVID-19 and the Columbus city government using the rink as a courthouse has pushed them into the Civic Center Arena for the every 2021-22 season home game.
What is the Collegiate Hockey Federation?
The CHF, also affectionately called “The Fed” (by me and me alone), is a collection of club hockey teams from universities all around the United States. The teams playing in the league are separated into eight conferences, all of which can be found on the website.
Much like how the NCAA functions, college hockey has different levels of competition. Auburn competes in the CHF’s D-II level, as do the all of the SECHC’s programs. Other schools in the local area and around the country host ACHA D-I teams, such as Liberty, Niagara, and Iowa State.
This concludes this week’s Q&A section. Come back next week for more invaluable questions, such as:
- How do the playoffs work?
- What the hell are the positions in this game?
- How can I get a hockey jersey?
- Do they fight? I want blood.
- Can we pay millions of dollars to fire our head coach and replace him with an assistant?
All of this and more will be in next week’s edition, so be sure to check in on Friday, Dec. 24, where you’ll surely have nothing more pressing going on in your life.
Second Period: Fireside Chat
Seeing as I’m the CEO of Auburn’s hockey program who oversees all off-ice operations, I think it’s good to have a section that provides insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. This will be a basic Cliff Notes view of what goes into building the program on a weekly basis, and what fans can look forward to in the future.
What we’re working on:
- We’ve begun creating designs for a small merchandise store that we hope to launch by the end of December or the beginning of January. Among the proposed items are t-shirts and hats, perfect for those who don’t have $130+ to spend on a jersey to rep the team.
- The foundation of a booster’s club has been laid thanks to our partnership with Blink Marketing, who can now provide us with the products needed to offer benefits like physical advertising at games or specialty thank-you gifts.
- Recruiting for a live production staff to produce “Hockey Night In Auburn” as a digitally streamed program has begun. Auburn Hockey hopes to have a high-quality radio and video broadcast integrated into the team structure by Fall of 2022.
- Audio elements for the team’s official radio show on 91.1 WEGL, Kicking Ice, are being built during this school break to ensure a professional level of quality.
Third Period: Five Big Things
These articles will always close with five important pieces of information that every Auburn Hockey fan would want to know. These can be about the team, other teams, the league, the NHL, or even recommending websites, podcasts, or writers. It’s nice to reward readers for making this far with the most valuable part of the article, in my opinion.
- Auburn is finally locking down on their Spring schedule after a back-and-forward negotiation with Columbus about ice times. The Tigers will only play a handful of home games to close out the year and are aiming to go up against Alabama in late January and the No. 1 ranked Tampa Spartans sometime after that. The road slate to wrap up the year will likely feature some combination of No. 4 Georgia and No. 6 Florida Atlantic, along with a possible non-conference opponent.
- After the conclusion of a packed finals week where teams all over the CHF battled it out, the Tigers have moved up to No. 11 in the national rankings and No. 4 in the Southeastern regional rankings. If they can hold on to this position, the program will make the national tournament for the first time in its history. Big stuff for a senior class that had a year taken away from them by COVID-19.
- Auburn’s jerseys are back on sale for a limited time, and that’s caught the attention of some big fish. Three members of ESPN’s NHL broadcasting team have either requested or endorsed a sweater from the club, which is big news for a team that’s only just beginning to work on its social media presence.
- The University of Arizona’s D-II ACHA team is getting a brand new arena in Tuscon. This is a monumental step for hockey in the desert, but more importantly for club hockey programs all over the country. This plan’s approval for a hockey-specific facility proves that club teams in nontraditional markets have a path to getting a proper home. That the Wildcats will have a legit crowd and fan culture thanks to this, and the value of that cannot be overstated.
- If you’re interested in learning more about the ACHA or CHF, as well as the various teams and players that comprise those two leagues, The Hockey House podcast should be your first stop. Produced by current and former ACHA players, as well as traveling photographer extraordinaire David Herman, The Hockey House is full of laughs, informative discussion, and insight into how teams around the country are working to improve and grow the sport. It’s a must-listen if you’re a fan of hockey or a fledgling Auburn Hockey fan who wants to understand the climate around the team.
That’ll do it for this week. Be sure to come back for more on the day before Christmas. Until then, good day, and good hockey.