Cam Talbot hopes to make another big save. This time, the Calgary Flames goalie is trying to keep the University of Alabama-Huntsville NCAA Division I hockey program alive.
Talbot, who played at Alabama-Huntsville from 2007-10, is using social media to ask people to donate to a GoFundMe effort started by the university's hockey alumni and supporters to raise $500,000.
"The program meant a lot to me," said Talbot, who is 150-122-25 in 314 NHL games for the Flames, New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. "I never thought that it would really kind of grow to allow me to live out my dream like I am now. I wouldn't have gotten this opportunity if I didn't end up in Alabama."
University president Darren Dawson and athletic director Cade Smith announced May 22 that the school was ending hockey, men's tennis and women's tennis because of budget problems related to the coronavirus pandemic. But university officials extended a lifeline to the hockey program if supporters could raise about $1 million. If those efforts are successful, the university has agreed to form an advisory board to help keep the program alive.
As of Wednesday evening, more than $206,000 had been raised from nearly 700 donors, including Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome, who contributed $500.
"I decided to make a donation after seeing the cause pop up on my Twitter feed," said Strome, who scored 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) in 58 games for Chicago in 2019-20. "I have a few friends that play there, and I would hate to see a team get canceled for any reason, especially for those guys who are D-I and have a chance to play pro and then all of the sudden possibly not have a place to play. So I felt it was right to donate some money to a good cause.
"It's important to have hockey everywhere."
Strome also retweeted the Friends of UAH Hockey's message seeking donations. So did former NHL goalie Chris Mason, who is an analyst for Nashville Predators broadcasts.
"D-1 hockey is huge in the South," Mason tweeted. "Former players & coaches from this program have helped grow youth hockey as much or more than anyone. Please donate if you can."
Alabama-Huntsville was the first and only NCAA Division I hockey program in the Southeast. It won national championships as a Division II program in 1996 and 1998 before moving to Division I for the 1998-99 season. The school has produced several professional players, including Talbot and forward Jared Ross, who was the first Alabama-born player to reach the NHL and played 13 games with the Flyers from 2008-10.
"The program has been around for 41 years now," Talbot said. "It's a place that provides an opportunity for 25 more kids to live out their college hockey dream and maybe move on to professional hockey."
The school's announcement ending the hockey program caught current and incoming players by surprise. Among them was Ayodele Adeniye, a graduate of the Columbus Ice Hockey Club, part of the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative.
Adeniye was supposed to play for Alabama-Huntsville beginning in the fall. Instead, the 21-year-old defenseman is searching for another NCAA Division I team to join.
"It's kind of disheartening," said Adeniye, who played last season for Carleton Place of the Central Canada Hockey League. "I'm just trying to stay patient and wait the process out."