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UNM hockey players sit on their bench during September 27, 2013 at the Outpost Arena.

UNM hockey players sit on their bench during September 27, 2013 at the Outpost Arena.

UNM hockey team gives fans something to root for

The University of New Mexico Men’s Hockey team is one of the longest active club sports teams in school history dating back to the late 1960s. Currently, the team comprises the only upper level competitive hockey program that the state of New Mexico offers, which makes it unique.

The Lobos sold out almost every single game last season, and is continuing to grow a tremendous fan base. Over the years, New Mexico has been home to many semi-professional hockey teams, including the New Mexico Scorpions and the New Mexico Mustangs, both of which were sold due to impending bankruptcy.

As a result, passionate hockey fans were left with no teams to follow except for the Lobos, leading to their explosion in popularity.

“New Mexico hockey means 505 kids taking on and beating what’s considered the premier teams of the West from California, Colorado and Arizona,” said Head coach Grant Harvey. “What UNM hockey means is a team comprised of 95 percent local talent, born and raised. (That) makes us the most authentic Lobo team out of any team at the University.”

Harvey has been involved with the Lobos hockey team for nine years now. His father played for the team in the ‘60s.

The Lobos play out of the Outpost Ice Arena, which is located right under the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. They compete in the ACHA Men’s Division III league and are in the Pacific region, along with over 50 other teams.

Over the last two seasons, UNM has finished in the top 15 but failed to make the regional tournament.

Last season, they played teams from Colorado, Texas Tech, Northern Arizona and Metro State, along with others. They beat each of these teams at least once.

They finished 16-7-0, good for 12th place, but two spots out of regional tournament contention.

Next year, they look to improve on this as well as continue to grow a fan base.

“When you look into the stands, you can see people from all different backgrounds and all different colors. You can see people wearing old Scorpion jerseys. They all come to watch us even though we are just a club team because we are the only hockey New Mexico has. It’s cool how we can bring a community together, even though we are just a club team playing a professional sport,” said New Mexico goalie Antonio Santiago.

The Lobos don’t just represent the University of New Mexico. They represent the entire state. They bring a community of hockey fans together and play a sport that isn’t meant for the desert. Without them, all the hockey fans that live in this community would have nothing to watch; nothing to bond over.

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The Lobos are more than just a club team; they are New Mexico hockey.

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