ATHENS, Ga. -- A UGA team prepping for a national championship run is always big news. But when the jersey's, pads and helmets are a little different than the ones you see between the hedges, it takes a bit more to spark a fan base.
"You want to have the feelings that the football players and the basketball players get and the attention they get,” said Senior Ryan Bray. “Everyone in this locker room would love to have the buzz going around the locker room, but with it being a club sport, and with us doing most of the promotions and fundraising, we just don't get that yet.”
Bray is a member of UGA’s “Ice Dawgs” hockey team. They’re on the hunt for a national championship, and they could use a little help from the Bulldog nation. They've won back-to-back SEC Championships, and with a 25-1-1 record, they've got a shot.
“Every year, the south is not talked about as much as we should,” the team’s coach Rick Emmett told 11Alive. “I'd like to think we've got a great shot at things to make some noise and maybe shock the world a little bit, so we're excited for the opportunity."
But it’s an opportunity that —at least for a club sport — comes at a price.
"What people don't understand is there is a big difference between varsity sports and club sports,” said Senior right wing Dan Fendius. “We have to deal with the logistics of every trip we take, put together our schedule, our budget. We are 95 percent self-funded."
David Brooks with UGA’s hockey foundation said that’s pretty typical of the team. They budget for ice time and travel throughout the year, but with nationals looming ahead, that’s an extra expense they didn’t plan for.
"We don't budget for nationals – that's not normal for us,” he told 11Alive’s Melissa Lee. “That's why we have a Gofundme page."
PHOTOS | UGA's Ice Dawgs team in action
PHOTOS: UGA's Ice Dawgs team in action
With a little over a week-and-a-half before the first post-season puck drops in Columbus Ohio, the Ice Dawgs are halfway to their financial goal…but a lot further along in their frame of mind.
“The guys in the locker room think we can win,” Bray said. “I love that the other teams don't think we have chance, so we can go out there and take a few games and maybe a National Championship.
The Ice Dawgs leave on Sunday for Ohio, and have so far raised more than $11,000 of their $20,000 goal. To find out how you can donate, visit the team’s Gofundme page.