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Kraken trying to help revive hockey at Alaska Anchorage

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SEATTLE — Even before playing their first game as a franchise, the Seattle Kraken are trying to help revive a college hockey program more than 1,000 miles from their home rink.

The team announced Friday it has raised $150,000 from team and individual investors as part of a challenge gift in an effort to save the program at Alaska Anchorage.

Plans to eliminate the hockey program at Alaska Anchorage were announced in 2020 as part of state budget cuts. Supporters of the program — Save Seawolf Hockey — have raised more than $1.8 million of the estimated $3 million needed to cover two years of operating expenses for the hockey program while providing time to establish long-term financial plans.

The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved an extension to the fundraising deadline earlier this week, which gives the group looking to reinstate the program until Aug. 30. The group must also raise an additional $444,000 each of the next two years to reinstate the Alaska Anchorage gymnastics program.

If successful, the Seawolves program would return for the 2022-23 NCAA season.

The Kraken are helping partly because the club’s broadcast territorial rights include Alaska and games will be broadcast there via its local TV partner, ROOT Sports Northwest. Seattle’s management has said it wants to cultivate the Alaska market because of hockey’s popularity there.

“We want to be part of the community in Anchorage and throughout the state,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said on the team’s website.

The program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was not cut and has already announced part of its schedule for the 2021-22 season after opting out this year.