Opinion: Save our hockey teams

On behalf of ConVal-Conant hockey
Published: 2/7/2019 4:23:10 PM

The ConVal-Conant Griffins hockey teams are in trouble. If the proposed ConVal School District budget doesn’t pass, the default budget has our programs on the chopping block. We currently have 37 boys and girls split between two teams. This is the third year that ConVal and Conant have fielded a co-op team, which has been a terrific venture for both districts. The programs have flourished thanks to the influx of new players, both boys and girls, from the Conant SAU. All Conant players are charged a fee of $800 per season, while the ConVal players are assessed a pay-to-play fee of $125 per season.

There is quite a bit of history for ConVal hockey prior to the merger. The boys’ team won back-to-back state championships and has been in existence for over 30 years. The annual alumni game draws hockey alums ranging from college freshmen to men and women in their fifties. The girls’ program, founded by a group of enthusiastic pond-hockey players, started as a club team in 2011 and transitioned to a NHIAA team in 2013. We have players from both teams who have moved along from the Griffins team to play in college.

Hockey players and families are typically a different breed, often forgoing other sports to play the long hockey season. The seasons in youth hockey typically run from September to April, and tend to “run in families:” Most of the boys, in particular, have dads who played hockey. Players and families look forward to the transition to high school hockey; it’s the first big goal and often, the culmination of their hockey careers. The leadership opportunities that are provided through high school sports are immense; our players have used their high school team captaincy for their college applications and admission to the National Honor Society. These teams provide a platform for kids who are hockey-oriented and may not play other sports. Hockey scholarships on the girls’ side are on the rise and having a high school team is important for colleges and universities to see. We have had players for both teams scouted by colleges during the 2018-2019 season.

The ConVal-Conant hockey program also provides numerous opportunities for the players to give back to the communities. Christmas tree sales, syrup sales, and the ski swap are our biggest fundraisers and the community is always there to scoop up these goods with a smile. Both teams are active in community service and are always looking to give back. If these teams are cut, there will be 35 to 40 kids without an avenue to give back to the community.

There is a stigma that hockey is an expensive sport and that we take up a large percentage of the athletics budget as compared to the number of athletes participating. However, once we were able to review the program budget, we were able to identify ways that we can cut expenses to fall in line with the other sports. The first budget item we reviewed was bussing. The hockey teams are required by the school to take a bus to all practice and home games. The total budget for bussing, including away games, is $16,000. This number could be cut drastically by only bussing to the away games. From our research, we are the only teams that bus to all practices – other off-site teams such as golf, skiing, and bass fishing, as well as other extracurriculars, carpool to offsite venues, with zero cost to the school.

The second item we reviewed was the facility fees/ice time. The hockey teams were the only two that had this line item in their budgets. The other sports that we received budgets for – football, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, volleyball – have zero budget dollars allotted to their sports for facility operations and maintenance costs because it is absorbed by the general budget. If these teams had their field and court time cost accounted to them, their expenses would fall in line with the hockey programs. Other savings measures could include: EMT costs could be cut with the addition of the ConVal trainer having the availability to cover home games; home game administration (score keeper, time clock, and announcing) could be handled by parents and friends of the programs.

If the proposed budget passes, we will play hockey next year. We also know that we will be a main target for cuts in the following year’s budget. We want to be a financially responsible sport, but we also feel that the School Board should be comparing apples to apples.

The positives of supporting ConVal-Conant Griffins Hockey are great, and having these players lose their opportunity to play the sport they love in high school would be a big loss.

Scott Tracy and Chris Spingola are the head coaches of the ConVal-Conant boys’ and girls’ hockey teams.


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