The general manager for the Kenai River Brown Bears announced Monday that the team will request reactivation at a meeting of the North American Hockey League Board of Governors on Tuesday.
“The save the Bears group has done an outstanding job and the outpouring of community support has been, in many ways, tremendous,” said Nate Kiel, the GM of the 10-year-old club. “We’ve made the decision to request reactivation.
“It will now fall upon the Board of Governors tomorrow afternoon.”
Kiel said he is cautiously optimistic the Board of Governors will reinstate the Bears for the 2017-18 season.
The Bears went inactive on Feb. 26 due to financial difficulties. March 21, a small group, spearheaded by Steve Stuber, met to plan a fundraising drive to save the team. The amount that had to be raised by April 15 was $300,000.
The group pulled it off, raising the $300,000 in 25 days, at a dizzying rate of $12,000 per day.
Stuber estimated Monday that he worked 18 to 21 hours a day on the project throughout the fundraising drive, but pointed out that his success was really about the community’s success.
“It’s about community,” he said. “I finally woke people up and said, ‘Hey, we can all do this together if all we do is our small part.’
“All I was, was the messenger. The message is what did it.”
Kiel gave credit to Stuber and a group of ardent Bears supporters for making the fundraising drive happen. After putting 10 years of his life into the team, he said it was nice to see the amount of good will that had accrued.
“We are very honored to realize the importance of this team to this community,” Kiel said. “There are so many things this team provides.
“It was awesome to see the commitment by people to step up and match pledges and buy season tickets.”
Kiel said his presentation to the Board of Governors today will involve more than the money raised. He said many volunteers have come forward to help with various aspects of running the Bears. Kiel also wants to start having more success on the ice.
Stuber said he thinks Kiel’s presentation should find success.
“We’ve proven we’re an awesome community and an amazing place for junior hockey,” Stuber said. “Why wouldn’t they take us?”
If the league takes back the Bears today, Kiel and Stuber stressed that marks a beginning, not an end.
“It’s just a new beginning, and now we keep trudging forward,” said Stuber, whose group has sold over 300 season tickets for next season. “We still have a season ticket goal of 500.”