When he woke up Monday, April 20, former Vernon Vipers defenceman Cameron Trott didn’t have a hockey team to play for anymore.
Trott, who turned 23 the day before, was a third-year blueliner studying business with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in Canada U-SPORTS’ Canada West conference. When he started reading his emails Monday, Trott discovered the university had announced it was disbanding its men’s and women’s hockey programs due to budget considerations.
“It was a feeling of disbelief,” said Trott from his parent’s home in Anmore, outside of Burnaby, on April 21. “There was no hint that was this coming. No warning, nothing. The coaches didn’t know. Staff didn’t know. The players didn’t know. Nobody did. We were all informed by email.”
“We have had to make several difficult decisions in the past few months and this one is equally challenging,” said Mike Mahon, University of Lethbridge president and vice-chancellor. “The Pronghorn hockey programs have been a source of great pride for our athletes, students, alumni, donors, sponsors, the campus community and supporters throughout southern Alberta. I know this news will significantly impact everyone associated with these programs.”
A total of 52 student-athletes, including Trott, are directly affected by this decision, as well as several recruits and coaches. Further, in response to budget considerations and to reflect a smaller complement of programs, the University is restructuring Sport and Recreation Services. The executive director position was eliminated last week.
Trott was acquired by the Vipers in the midst of the 2016-17 season from the B.C. Hockey League’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. He finished out the year, then accepted an NCAA Div. 1 scholarship to the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Trott spent one semester up north before leaving and returning to the Vipers in 2017-18. He helped Vernon make the playoffs, where they lost in six games in an Interior Conference semifinal to the eventual league champion Wenatchee Wild.
Trott played 131 career regular-season games in the BCHL with Salmon Arm and Vernon, compiling 15 goals and 50 assists for 65 points. In 28 career playoff games, Trott added 6-9-15.
Following the 2017-18 season, with the calendar moving quickly toward the start of a new hockey year, Trott accepted a deal at Lethbridge.
“There was a spot open there and my brother knew a couple of guys on the team, and they figured I would be a good fit,” said Trott, who still has two years of Canada U-SPORTS eligibility left.
The University of Lethbridge will honour scholarship commitments to its student-athletes if they choose to continue to study there. As well, it will work with student-athletes and recruited athletes to pursue opportunities with other university programs if they so desire.
“I haven’t decided anything yet, I need to figure out a plan,” said Trott. “I want to keep on playing hockey.”
Vernon runners Liam McGrath and Samantha Loewen went through the same thing in March when Thompson Rivers University of Kamloops announced it was disbanding its men’s and women’s cross-country running programs.
The Lethbridge men’s hockey team debuted in 1984 while the women’s team started up in 1997.