By Lisa Nault
The University of North Dakota announced on March 29 that it must eliminate several teams as a result of budget cuts. These teams include: women’s hockey and men’s and women’s swimming and diving. As surprising as the news was to the student body it shocked the women’s hockey team the most. They did not even know the team was being cut and had to learn the information through social media.
The hockey team had gone about their day in a normal fashion. The women attended practice and the coach had a recruit fly in. Everyone was blindsided by the news including the new recruit, Lauren Hennessey, who traveled from Massachusetts and went on a two-hour tour of the campus before learning she could no longer join the team.
Many people were surprised by the women’s hockey team being terminated as it has been rather successful in the past. According to “New York Daily News,” the University of North Dakota previously had eight players on the national women’s hockey teams competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The university is well known for its hockey program: both men’s and women’s.
The university has been criticized for its poor communication abilities with the team by the public as well as the student body. The administration originally planned to inform the team, including the coach, during a press conference later in the day after they finished practice.
However, the news spread on social media before the conference was held. Besides the fact that they heard about the cut online, student athletes were shocked because a few months earlier the university said it was not going to cut anymore sports programs according to the “Grand Forks Herald.” The players had no reason to suspect that more cuts would occur, directly affecting their ability to skate.
“This is a painful step to take for all parties involved, including me, but it is necessary given today’s budget realities,” said Mark Kennedy, University of North Dakota president, in the announcement of the budget cuts. “My heart goes out to all those who are disrupted by this change. We are proud of the way they have represented UND.”
Even though the team is cut, the university explained that it will still honor the students’ hockey scholarships.
However, the students are not simply letting their team be cut without trying to save it first. In response to the budget cutting the hockey team, a social media effort arose to bring awareness to this problem and support the women’s hockey team. The effort uses hashtag #NeverEndTheFight to express solidarity for the team. Also, alumnae are responding to the team’s elimination— including two-time Olympic silver medalists. Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, players on the 2014 Winter Olympic team, wrote a letter to President Kennedy and athletic director Brian Faison to restore the women’s hockey program.
The letter stated that the decision to cut the “only NCAA women’s hockey team in the state is detrimental to girls hockey, not only in North Dakota, but for the entire region (U.S. and Canada).” The Lamoureux twins further explain that “Young girls cannot become what they cannot see. To take away the most visible platform for young players to dream of reaching in the state and region will have a generational effect on this sport.”
Currently, the university remains unwavered on its decision to cut the women’s hockey program.