The Ferris State University men's ice hockey program, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary this coming season, has made history on the ice over the years while becoming a powerful nationally-recognized NCAA Division I program and, in that spirit fans, alumni and friends of the program will be asked to make an important play in support of Bulldog Hockey.
Ferris State Athletics and the Bulldog Athletic Association publicly launched one of the school's largest athletics-related fundraising campaigns ever by announcing a major $1.5 million "Be A Playmaker" endowment campaign for the men's ice hockey program on Saturday (Aug. 2) evening during the annual Bulldog Hockey Classic-Alumni Golf Outing banquet held at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center in Big Rapids.
To date, the campaign has raised $882,000 in private support to help secure the future and sustain the program’s elite status in the years to come.
The "Be A Playmaker" campaign will raise funds to provide resources for recruiting, team travel, strength training and conditioning, performance technology along with facility upgrades that will allow the Bulldog Hockey program to compete at the highest level.
"This campaign will provide a significant boost financially to our hockey program," said FSU Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger. “The quiet phase has been successful and the timing and energy to announce our plans to raise endowed funds for Bulldog Hockey has never been better. We want to capitalize on the excitement and successes created by Coach Daniels, his staff, our hockey program and certainly by our die-hard fans to ensure that Ferris State Hockey will continue to be a program of excellence for years to come.”
A number of familiar faces and names are part of the "Be A Playmaker" steering committee to help ensure Bulldog Hockey success, including past alumni such as two-time Stanley Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Kunitz ('03), steering committee chair Chris Bowers ('78), Gary Cousino ('73), Lyle Nagle ('76) and Zach Redmond ('11), who's currently a member of the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Colorado Avalanche. Former head coach Rick Duffet, who was the school's first Division I coach, is serving as co-vice chair along with Kunitz while former Ferris State University President and hockey program founder Bob Ewigleben is part of the steering committee, which also includes past player parent Dick Redmond and Ferris State Board of Trustees Vice Chair Sueann Walz.
"Our goals and aspirations are aggressive, but we can't do it alone and the support of the Bulldog Nation will provide necessary resources to support our effort to remain among the top teams in the country on a daily basis," said FSU head coach Bob Daniels, a two-time NCAA Division I National Coach of the Year who will embark on his 23rd season at the Bulldog helm this coming year. "The ongoing support of our donors will help ensure a first-class experience for our student-athletes while they earn their degrees and compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics."
The “Be A Playmaker” campaign has received a strong start thanks in part to a lead campaign gift from Kunitz, an NHL All-Star with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and his wife, Maureen, who is also a Ferris State graduate.
“I’m proud to be an alum of the Bulldog Hockey program and excited to be part of this steering committee helping to secure the future for Ferris State,” said Kunitz. “Our gift will help both current and future student-athletes and the Bulldog Hockey program continue to leave a big impression in the college hockey world and I encourage others to help support this great cause.”
The Bulldog men's hockey program has been a treasured part of the University and West Michigan for more than 40 years, bringing national attention to Ferris State on numerous occasions such as when the team finished second nationally in 2012 with its trip to the NCAA Division I Frozen Four National Championship game.
The program, which holds deep roots within the community, produced 24 National Hockey League (NHL) draft picks during its formative years from 1982-99. Bulldog Hockey alumni in the NHL have included such past standouts as Rob Collins, John Gruden, Dave Karpa, Greg Rallo, Chad Billins and Andy Roach along with Kunitz.
Since those early years, the Bulldogs have continued their remarkable journey and ranked among the nation's best over the past decade, producing their top seasonal performances at the NCAA Division I level, a trio of league regular-season championships, three NCAA Division I regional championship trips, an NCAA Frozen Four Championship berth, three Hobey Baker Award finalists and multiple American Hockey Coaches Association awards since 2003.
The success hasn't stopped on the ice as the Bulldogs have also ranked among the nation's 10 best teams in the classroom and the program annually contributes to a wide range of worthwhile charitable and community service projects as a way of giving back to its faithful fans, who often fill the Ewigleben Ice Arena to produce one of the top home-ice advantages in the country.
Throughout the program's rich history, student-athletes have continually taken their game to the next level and this past season the hockey program joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), an opportunity that calls upon Bulldog student-athletes, along with fans and supporters, to continue to be at the top of their game.
As Bulldog Hockey continues to add new chapters to its amazing story and remarkable history, the "Be A Playmaker" campaign will help assure it continues to flourish in the WCHA with fans, friends and alumni asked to give to help power the program in its quest for future excellence.
Those wishing to support Bulldog Hockey can do so through a wide range of giving options, from cash gifts to pledges with payment schedules of up to five years. Matching and planned gifts, including bequests of wills or trusts, charitable lead trusts and retirement fund gifts are also most welcome with potential room naming opportunities also available.
"Every person who contributes will help assure the success of this campaign and provide the necessary ingredients for Ferris State Hockey to maintain its position among the best in the country," said Will Goode, who serves as Ferris State's Athletics Advancement Officer. "Along with our great fans and supporters, we are extremely proud of the achievements of our hockey program and believe this campaign will help us continue to reach our highest goals in the years ahead."