On Wednesday last week, our club made the difficult decision not to participate in the 2016 ACHA D3 National Championships. This decision has affected many people and programs across the country, and for that we want to extend our deepest apologies to the ACHA, the tournament host, the 15 other teams participating in the event, and all of our supporters. We also want to explain the circumstances regarding this announcement so our fans and fellow programsÂ understand we did not make this decision without deep thought and deliberation.
Prior to accepting the bid to Regionals, our team acknowledged that a trip to Nationals would mean playing with a short bench due to conflicts with the timingÂ of the tournament. We ultimately decided to compete for two reasons. First, we determined that, despite our constraints, we would have enough guys to make the trip to Nationals if we made it through Regionals. And second, we viewed competing at Regionals as an essential evolutionary milestone for our program, the first chance to do so in our 40-year history.
As fate would have it, the team overcame the absence of its two top forwards to win both games in Orlando and we qualified for Nationals. Our players and coaches were all thrilled by the feat, which was undoubtedly the biggest achievement in our club’s history. Our joy, however, quickly gave way to trepidation as we turned our attention towards organizing the players, finances, and logistics associated with the trip.
As of Monday morning last week, we had a roster ready to go and a host of sponsors signed on to provide financial support for the venture. Everything was coming together nicely, but by Monday night following several doctorsâ€™ visits, our roster was cut down to nine skaters due to the diagnosis of several significantÂ injuries. For multiple reasons, the biggest being safety, we felt this was too few people to play with, and so we made the decision to decline our bid to compete.Â The team deliberated one last time on Tuesday evening to confirm the decision before sharing the update with the ACHA leadership team Wednesday morning.Â Thankfully, the ACHA was able to fill our slot with a talented squad from Liberty University.
With increasing clarity over the past week, we realize the magnitude of our decision to forgo the opportunity to compete in Grand Rapids. To the host of the event, as well as the entire ACHA leadership team in charge of organizing the Championships, we want to extend our deepest apologies for presenting this challenge to you last week. We are relieved you were able to find a replacement club, and moving forward, rest assured we will never place you in this difficult position again.Â
As a result of this experience, we intend to take a close look at how we articulate our team goals at the beginning of each season, plan for our potential successes throughout the year, and manage risk and contingency planning in the face of uncharted situations like these. In the meantime, our club is committed to earning back the respect of other programs across the country, and dedicated to maintaining a program that the SECHC and ACHA conference leaders can be proud of.
We wish the very best of luck to those teams competing in Grand Rapids next week, and we look forward to following the action from Nashville.
Yours in hockey,
The Vanderbilt Ice Hockey Club