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University of Lethbridge suspends hockey programs

Last Updated Apr 20, 2020 at 12:00 pm MST

The men's hockey team at the University of Lethbridge celebrates during a game in February 2017. (CREDIT: University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, Facebook)

LETHBRIDGE (660 NEWS) – It’s the end of a long-standing tradition at the University on Lethbridge.

The school is announcing it’s eliminating both the men’s and women’s hockey programs due to budget cuts from the provincial government.

“We have had to make several difficult decisions in the past few months and this one is equally challenging,” said University President Mike Mahon.

“The Pronghorn hockey programs have been a source of great pride for our athletes, students, alumni, donors, sponsors, the campus community and supporters throughout southern Alberta. I know this news will significantly impact everyone associated with these programs.”

About 52 athletes will be affected by the loss of the program. However, the university says it will honour scholarship commitments for students who plan to stay with the school.

The men’s Pronghorns hockey team has been in place since 1984. It won its only University Cup national championship in 1994 with Olympic gold medal-winning coach Mike Babcock behind the bench. Former NHL head coach Bill Peters also coached the team from 2004-2005.

The women’s team debuted in 1997 and made its only appearance in the national championship tournament in 2003.

The teams were a staple of both the school and the community at large, helping to organize hockey camps, minor hockey sponsorships, participation in athletes-in-school reading and anti-bullying programs.

“Measuring the impact of university athletic programs goes far beyond winning percentages, and our hockey programs have played a very important role in the development of minor hockey in southern Alberta,” said Mahon.

“It is not lost on us what a significant loss this is to all those who have benefitted from the Pronghorn programs over the years.”

Mahon warns more cuts are likely as the school continues to reel from the lack of funding and grants from the provincial government.