Welcome back to The Auburn Hockey Report, the only weekly publication covering the Tigers on and away from the rink. As Christmas looms over everything, Auburn Hockey has been busy off the ice running its jersey sale and preparing for the tumultuous and important Spring semester ahead.
That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty to talk about with this team besides their uniforms. With a playoff berth in sight and much to do in preparation for next season, you could argue that hockey on the Plains is more newsworthy than ever. With that said, what exactly is going on behind closed doors?
To read last week’s edition, click here.
First Period: Q&A
So, something I’ve always been curious about with club sports: do you have to go through a design and approval process with the university for team logos? Or do they just give you a list of logos that are approved to use?
Almost all clubs have the same exact style guide allowing for certain logo use and defining the proper fonts and colors to use when creating uniforms and anything else associated with the club. With Auburn Hockey, what’s happened is that the style has appeared to grow increasingly constrictive over the years. While there is some truth to that conception, it’s not entirely correct.
In reality, some of what’s happened is that previous iterations of the club took the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” approach to the rules, and ended up being given warnings to not use those elements after they’d been around for some time. The exception to this is Sailor Aubie, whose removal from the style guide is due to a totally separate and unrelated legal matter.
The club is fighting to expand the style guide’s current allowed logo group of the interlocking AU, “Tiger Eyes,” the “War Eagle,” and standard block lettering. Right now, anything that could be loosely construed as using the likeness of Aubie, Toomer’s Corner/Samford Hall, or even the “power stripe” seen on the football uniforms comes under scrutiny.
How do the playoffs work, and has this team ever won anything?
The postseason in the CHF is very similar to how NCAA basketball functions. First up is the SECHC tournament in Hunstville, where the top eight teams in the conference compete in a single-elimination bracket to determine who gets the privilege of hoisting the SECHC Cup. The Auburn Tigers have never made it past the second round, but with the program trending in an upward direction this year might signal a change in that history.
Many of the seniors on this team have meaningful postseason experience from a thrilling 6-5 2OT win over the South Carolina Gamecocks back in 2019’s tourney; the man who scored the game winner, Lance O’Rourke, will be suiting up for any potential playoff run. Auburn fell short in the 2019 run after an 8-6 barnburner against the eventual runner-ups of the tournament in Ole Miss, but after entering the tourney as the No. 7 seed exited as anything but losers.
This year the Tigers are poised to get legit cracks at winning a title, but also to go to the Federation Cup Tournament in Philadelphia, the CHF equivalent of March Madness. The Frigid Frenzy (yes, that’s my own nickname) features 32 teams split into eight regions, with the top four from each region facing each other in a single-elimination series. After one team exits pool play in each pod, the eight remaining schools duke it out in a typical bracket.
Teams for the regions are selected via a combination of media/coach voting and computer rankings, akin to how the BCS in football functioned. The regional rankings determine who gets to compete for the national title, and the national rankings generally provide a gauge of who’s a contender and who isn’t. At the moment, Auburn is ranked fourth in the Southeast Region and No. 11 nationally, meaning that if the Tigers maintain their current standing in the computer model during the Spring they’ll be on pace to make the big dance for the first time in program history.
I saw that Auburn finally dropped their Spring schedule the other day. Any thoughts on it, and why are there only two home games?
I’m stoked for the Spring schedule because it’s going to show us just how much this team has grown. Auburn has one of the toughest SOS in the CHF this year; every team from the first game of the year to the last is ranked in the national top 25 right now, with the exceptions of UCF (No. 26) and Tennessee (No. 34). FAU and UGA are heavy hitters who lead the conference, and while Alabama’s No. 25 D-II team isn’t quite the threat they’ve been in previous years, they aren’t slouches either.
Y’all wanted some scheduling updates, so here they are. Consider it an early Christmas gift. pic.twitter.com/kSYOGceeNi— Auburn Ice Hockey (@AuburnHockey) December 21, 2021
Maybe the biggest game down the stretch is the Tigers’ long-awaited rematch with Alabama’s D-I squad. The Crimson Tide are only the No. 35 team in ACHA D-I, but this is a “rivalry” where Auburn has never beaten the best Tuscaloosa have had to offer. With the last matchup between these two sides resulting in a 10-2 Auburn loss back in September of 2021, this rematch will present a number of opportunities for firsts: the first time that Auburn has defeated Alabama’s top squad on the rink, and the first time that the Tigers have asserted themselves as a threat to D-I clubs.
As for the lack of home games, that boils down to the situation at Auburn’s home venue. With the city of Columbus having shut down the smaller ice rink next door to the Civic Center that Auburn usually plays in, the Tigers have to compete for game times with the Columbus Rapids and Columbus River Dragons. Seeing as both of these organizations have priority as leased tenants, Auburn was forced into a position where scheduling contests in its own building became nearly impossible. Hopefully this will be resolved heading into 2022-23.
Do you know if any of the games in the Spring will be streamed?
Right now, the only certain thing concerning streaming is that the final two home games of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide will be covered via radio, courtesy of 91.1 WEGL FM. The hope is for there to be an Auburn-run video stream for every game remaining in the season, but realistically it appears that for the team’s series against FAU fans will need to rely on Twitter updates to stay informed.
At the very least, there should be streams for Auburn’s series against Georgia and ‘Bama, along with the SECHC Tournament. If Auburn makes it to the Federation Cup, there’s a possibility of a crew traveling to Philadelphia to cover the action.
Second Period: Fireside Chat
What we’re working on:
- Designs for the first phase of the merchandise store have been finalized and submitted to Auburn’s Trademark and Licensing office, as well as the team’s supplier, Blink Marketing. Following Christmas, the club will be working out pricing and launch dates with Blink pending the approval of the University.
- There’s communication going on between the NC State Icepack and the Tigers, with the latter filling the role of student. The Icepack have a fully-fledged video production setup featuring excellent work like Zak Selweah’s “All Access,” an episodic behind-the-scenes look at the team, alongside a quality game-by-game video stream complete with intermission content and commercials. Auburn is hoping to replicate this kind of high-end product with its own spin, and is in the process of gathering information to improve the remote fan’s experience.
- An alumni network is in the process of being constructed, with the goals of restoring the club’s lost history, playing a yearly alumni game, and bringing greater funding and awareness to the club.
- Tiered rewards packages for sponsors are in the process of being assembled. Potential benefits include unique memorabilia, autographed jerseys, advertising at games, and more.
Third Period: Five Big Things
- With the team’s December jersey sale concluded, the final numbers are as follows: 132 orders, $17,855 in sales, and approximately $4,290 in team funding added. Those are pretty impressive results for a team that hasn’t had any committed off-ice marketing until this year, and I know the team can’t wait to see how the other apparel sells.
- Auburn fans, people from Columbus, and southern Alabama residents have all expressed their annoyance with the lack of a quality ice rink in proximity to the cities of Auburn and Opelika. These complaints are usually just simple “build a rink on campus” pleas, but some go deeper; a few parents from the Columbus Hockey Association messaged me to express their desire for a new venue where their children could play youth hockey that was backed seriously by local authorities. It’s no secret that hockey in Columbus has been neglected in terms of funding and attention in recent years, and those in the community who love the game are beginning to make their voices heard. For Auburn Hockey, that’s big news; a grassroots movement for a home rink closer to campus helps them out.
- A former ACHA player recently published a children’s book about a girl who dreams of playing hockey, aptly titled Nora’s Hockey Dream. If you have a young daughter who loves sports, this seems like a cool little story to read at bedtime. Nice to see former club players doing positive work out in the hockey community.
- The Tennessee Ice Vols might not be finding much success on the ice this season, but away from the rink they’re having a big year. After UTK Basketball player Josiah-Jordan James rolled up to a postgame press conference wearing an Ice Vols jersey, it was off to the races; the program has since begun a jersey sale via the University’s official store, VolShop, which has garnered quite a bit of positive response. It’s good to see an official collegiate store like VolShop cooperating with a club team, rather than the usual conflict between club and school over merchandising that we see all too often in the ACHA and CHF.
- The new merchandise that Auburn Hockey is set to release is spicy. That is all.
That’ll do it for this week. Merry Christmas Eve to all of you Auburn fans out there. Until next time, good day, and good hockey.