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Waldorf hockey-Veillet (copy)

Ryan Veillet plays for Waldorf in a game earlier this season.

FOREST CITY — Waldorf University's hockey team and five other member universities are taking steps to bring the sport back to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Waldorf, Aquinas College, the Indiana Institute of Technology, Lawrence Technological University, Life University and Lindenwood University-Belleville are charter members of an NAIA Division that has been formed in cooperation with the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). The NAIA Division, which will begin play during the 2017-18 season, was officially approved at the annual ACHA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida, and formalized with each head coach signing a declaration of intent to compete in the division.

"It means a great deal to our staff and our players to be pioneers in the resumption of NAIA hockey," Waldorf coach Brett Shelanski said. "A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes by many different people to make this a reality and we are truly excited to be a part of it."

The NAIA hosted an ice hockey championship from 1968 to 1984. With the sport regaining interest at numerous NAIA institutions during the last decade, additional universities are positioning to establish varsity programs within the next few years.

In 2014, a group of coaches and athletic administrators began working with NAIA officials to sponsor the initiative return of ice hockey as an NAIA championship sport. The group formed a coaches association in 2016 and collaborated with ACHA leadership to create the new division that will host the NAIA varsity programs during the multi-year process to regain NAIA championship status.

ACHA executive director Mike Walley led the effort to create the new division for the growing number of varsity programs at NAIA institutions. The ACHA will continue to serve as the governing body and will support the programs during the NAIA's emerging sport process as well as encourage growth of the sport at other NAIA institutions.

In October 2017, the NAIA Division will begin competition with the national tournament to be held March 8-13 at Columbus, Ohio.

- Waldorf sports information

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