Despite little fanfare and being almost completely self-funded, the Huskies have found great success competing at the club level in the Pac-8.

Share story

Dan Herda stood just outside a café inside the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library.

The 21-year-old student wore a black sweatshirt with an old-school Huskies logo. Underneath the purple and gold W, one word was printed in block letters: HOCKEY.

When people see the sweatshirt, they always seem to ask the same thing. “UW has a hockey team?”

The Huskies do, in fact, have an ice hockey team. And it’s quite good — back-to-back conference champions.

However, “Pretty much nobody knows we exist,” said Herda, a forward who doubles as the team’s vice president. “We have to promote, starting from scratch pretty much every year.”

Unlike the university’s well-funded programs — football, basketball and others — that compete in the Pac-12, this team competes at the club level in the Pac-8. On this team, the athletes don’t get scholarships. The coach, David Kell, doesn’t receive a paycheck.

They pay to play, because they love the game.

“Most of us are here, because we really like to play hockey,” Herda said. “I balance school, fraternity stuff, work and then hockey.”

Added team president Bryce Johnson, “It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

The program gets $3,000 from the school as well as jerseys and socks but, after that, it’s all on the players to raise money. Each athlete comes up with $2,000, which covers basic expenses. They also buy their equipment — gloves, helmets, sticks, skates, pads — in addition to paying for gas, hotels and meals on road trips.

This season has been very successful and the club qualified for the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s West Regional in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday and Sunday. But, to keep playing, the club needs more money. It costs an additional $7,000 to make the trip.

When Johnson, a 21-year-old defenseman, was asked how close the team is to raising the money, he said it was “almost there.”

Even if the Huskies have to dip into their pockets, they plan to find a way to get to San Jose. They’ve invested too much this season to give up now.

It is an exciting time for hockey fans in Seattle, who hope a proposed Sodo arena plan leads to an NHL franchise migrating to the city. The 22 members of the Huskies’ hockey team, which was founded in 1919, are optimistic. If it happens, they’d like to create a connection to the franchise.

“This town likes something different,” Kell said. “I think the town will rally around an NHL team, just because it’s something different. The game, once they see it live, is like nothing they’ve seen before.”

While local NHL fans are forced to wait and see, there is a group of athletes with a passion to play. They make it work. They’re heading to regionals.

All that’s left is a little more fundraising.

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com