Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Alabama club hockey co-founds new conference with focus on bringing hockey to the South

CW / Elijah McWhorter
Alabama hockey player Calvin Mansfield (#25) takes a shot against UAH at the Pelham Civic Complex in Pelham, AL.

Alabama’s American Collegiate Hockey Association M1 team will join Louisville, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina to create a new conference with the intention of bringing popularity to hockey in the South, the team announced via its Instagram.

The four schools have entered into an agreement with the ACHA and the Atlantic Coast Conference Hockey League to create the conference, which will begin play in the 2025-26 season.

“I think it was a much-needed conference,” forward Chris Moehlenpah said. “We have four big-name programs with the potential for more to join. This is one step forward towards our goal of growing the game of hockey in the South.”

Club president Austin Fink said North Carolina State contacted Alabama’s manager, Will Zeek, who “enthusiastically accepted” the call. From there on, hushed negotiations ensued with the hockey league. Once the idea was put together and presented, the ACHA was sold.  

The change came just in time; after a 5-20-1 season, the school’s only D1 team considered dropping to the Amateur Athletic Union, where one of Alabama’s two other men’s teams resides. 

“We were at a point where we were thinking about going down to the AAU,” Fink said. “With all the other SEC schools, that would bring a lot of popularity with our SEC matchups, and we would be absolutely dominant in that league.” 

Fink said that the team was deliberating whether or not to make the switch when the Frozen Tide was offered the opportunity to co-found the new conference, and from there the decision was made to pursue the opportunity.  

The parameters to join the conference were clear. Joining members must be a part of a “Power 5 Conference” that has had current and historical success within its ACHA M1 program, and it must be a fully developed ACHA program with a loyal fanbase. The school also can’t have a current NCAA hockey team. 

Some players believe that being able to play opponents with bigger fan bases of their own could have a major impact on the team’s popularity at Alabama. This is because the Frozen Tide’s current home is at Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Rink in Pelham, Alabama, which is seated nearly an hour away from campus. 

“If I was a fan and I was like, ‘Okay, I have to drive 45 to 50 minutes to watch this game,’  I’m not going to go out to watch them play the University of Central Oklahoma.” Fink said, “I would want to go out and watch them play the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oregon Ducks, the Auburn Tigers, the Ole Miss Rebels. People want to come out to see the big Power Five matchups.” 

Alabama’s hockey programs have been working for years to increase hockey’s popularity in the South, advocating through an Instagram account that, according to its bio, shapes the future of Southern hockey.

Through this organization, Alabama’s four teams have petitioned to bring a rink in Tuscaloosa and eventually reach the goal of having an NCAA hockey team at Alabama. Forward Jenson Lopez says forming this new conference is a step toward achieving these goals. 

“This team will have a chance at going to NCAA D1 once other SEC schools do the same,” Lopez said. “It will take a lot of hard work to keep building this program, and this new conference is a great step in the right direction for our organization. “

Although Alabama hasn’t yet joined the ranks of NCAA hockey, ACCHL commissioner Mike Walley says the conference will showcase the “highest levels of collegiate hockey in the Southeast,” and inspire an entirely new generation of hockey players in non-traditional regions to continue to pursue their hockey dreams.

Even with all the good this league will do in club collegiate hockey, some reasons for joining this conference are intrinsic. 

Being an independent team without a conference to call home, the team would need a nearly perfect record to make the ACHA playoffs, but once seated inside a conference, the team only needs to be the best in the conference to get an automatic bid. 

“This conference will give us so much positivity,” Lopez said. “And this team will be a confident program that loves to win and hates to lose.”

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