The University of Northern Colorado Club Hockey team may be one of UNC’s best hidden gems. Not only for their talent, but also for their sense of community and giving back.
In 2017 the Bears were awarded the ACHA Division II Community Service of the Year award for their theme nights and what they do for the community.
This year will be their third annual hockey fights cancer night on October 12th. Each year the team nominates people in their life and around Greeley that have shown they are warriors in the fight against cancer.
Before the game those cancer fighters and survivors are honored individually with a plaque, a brief biography of their story read aloud, a picture with the teammate who nominated them, and a standing ovation from the crowd.
This emotional game night has been a big success in past years.
“We all know someone who is affected by cancer,” team manager Erin Prueter said. “That’s part of the reason we feel this night is so important.”
Behind the scenes, Prueter is hard at work marketing, coordinating the set-up, and in charge of the overall success of the night. Despite the pressure, Prueter loves the challenges since theme nights are always a step above the usual hockey night excitement.
There will be a silent auction, t-shirt sale, and jersey sale to raise money for the UNC Cancer Rehabilitation Institute. All the game worn specialty jerseys will be the jerseys up for the silent auction. The team also asks fans to wear purple as a sign of solidarity with the cancer survivors. The UNC Bears will host the DU Pioneers at 8:30 p.m. on October 12.
Later this season, November 30th, the Bears will be hosting their third annual Military Appreciation Night which has an identical format as the cancer night, but military themed and the color of the night is green for that game. The UNC Bears will host Division III Air Force Falcons at 8:30 p.m.
Some fans were concerned the theme nights were in trouble when the team posted a GoFundMe link. Fans do not need to worry since the theme nights have their base funding, but the team always tries to do extras for the fans and recipients.
Funding is often a challenge for the team since hockey equipment, travel, operations and unexpected costs add up quickly. The Bears receive their funding from a club sports budget, student senate allotment, sponsorships and the dues players pay each semester.
Many club teams travel, but are usually limited to regional teams in Colorado. While the Bears are mostly in-state for their conference schedule they do travel out of state twice for two high caliber tournaments in North Dakota and Utah, as well as a two-game road trip to Edmond, Oklahoma.
Looking ahead the Bears have a very tough schedule, but that is intended, according to Prueter.
“Coach Fikis schedules games very carefully since he wants the team to play the best teams available,” she said. “For example, we schedule Utah State often since they are usually ranked high and beating highly ranked teams helps us get to regionals and then on to nationals if we are winning.”
The Bears have a tough season slated ahead, but if they can put in an effort similar to last year we could see the Bears end the season as the 16th best team in the country or better in Division II of the ACHA.
The first UNC home game of the regular season will be the Hockey Fights Cancer night on Friday October 12 at 8:30 p.m. in the Greeley Ice Haus.