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Budget face-off looms over Conant hockey

Proposal to fund program’s first team in combination with Monadnock High getting little traction from school administrators

For Conant High School sophomore Parker Lundsted, playing ice hockey for his school has always been a dream that until recently seemed out of reach. Conant doesn’t have a hockey team, and so Lundsted does his skating for the Granite State Enforcers, a club team based in Keene. There are seven Conant students on the Enforcers; Lundsted said they consider the team a substitute for an actual high school program. Now, Lundsted’s dream of playing high school hockey may be a step closer to realization. Plans are in the works for a co-operative NHIAA ice hockey team comprised of players from both Conant and Monadnock high schools, as presented at a December Conant School Board meeting. Monadnock had a team of their own for about 10 years; when numbers dwindled to nine players in 2010, the school chose to dissolve the program.

“I felt real bad for those nine kids that we had when we did fold the program and took it right out from under them, especially the ones that had been playing for two or three years,” said Monadnock athletic director Tom Stewart. But with 16 to 20 players projected to potentially suit up for Monadnock over the course of the next eight seasons, and with construction slated to begin in January on Keene’s new state-of-the-art hockey facility, the time could be right to revive the program. The team would be co-ed, and Stewart said that, pending approval by the NHIAA, it would most likely compete in Division III.

While Monadnock’s School Board has already approved adding a co-op hockey team for next year and placed it in their budget, Conant High officials don’t seem to see eye-to-eye with their Monadnock counterparts. Principal John Barth said that while the hockey team has been added to the strategic school budget, “along with our other needs and wishes,” it does not appear on the actual budget, which will be finalized on Jan. 6. Barth said that while it would be great for Conant athletes to have a chance to play hockey for the school, it’s hard to justify an sizeable expenditure to fund the team while the district is in the midst of cutting back.

“It’s difficult for me to say we want an ice hockey team when I am looking to reduce 1.5 positions for next year,” Barth said.

And even the amount of the expenditure seems to be in question. Monadnock’s budget has the team at a cost of approximately $14,000, which would be split between the two schools based on how many players each school had on the team. But the Conant strategic budget item lists a cost of around $22,000 for the team, with higher travel expenses for the Orioles contributing a chunk to that higher number.

Stewart and the Monadnock contingent are prepared to move forward with the proposal as of now. “It is in our budget,” Stewart said, “unless they tell me otherwise.” If Conant is to join forces with them, it will require a petition warrant article to come together before Jan. 14, the deadline to get the proposal heard at the Jan. 16 budget hearing.

“Those parents need to know that they need to get out and vote for this if it’s going to happen,” Stewart said.

If enough signatures are gathered and Conant’s “wishes” are granted, it would mark the first time in the school’s history that it had an ice hockey team, and it would give Parker Lundsted and the rest of his Oriole brethren the chance to suit up for their school and represent their community.

“It would mean a whole lot for me to be able to wear that Conant jersey,” Lundsted said. “It’s great doing it for other sports but it just wouldn’t compare to hockey.”

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