PORTLAND — There will be no cooperative hockey teams between Portland and Deering high schools next winter, a solution both school hoped would address low participation numbers in the sport for boys and girls.
A request by the schools was denied by the Maine Principals’ Association’s interscholastic management committee.
To qualify as a co-op program, the schools’ combined enrollment cannot be larger than the largest school in the state, and at least one of the two programs would have needed to be sub-varsity status, according to Dick Durost, the MPA executive director.
“The intent of the cooperative isn’t to take two schools who have programs and combine them,” said Durost. “It’s more for a school that is interested and doesn’t have the kind of interest yet for a full-blown program.”
Edward Little and Leavitt, meanwhile, requested a cooperative girls’ team, and were approved at the same meeting.
Understood, said Portland Athletic Director Rich Drummond.
Lewiston High has the largest enrollment in Maine, 1,328 students. Deering has 1,047 students and combined with Portland’s 894, eclipses Lewiston by more than 500.
“There are clear rules and guidelines when you are trying to form a cooperative team,” said Drummond.
“We’ll do the best we can at Portland to give our kids the opportunity next season.”
According to Athletic Director Bill LeRoy, the Rams have just six returning girls from last year’s 4-12-2 team.
On the boys’ side, the team is expecting 15 to return but would like at least 20. The Rams made the playoffs this past year with a 10-5-3 record.
“We’ll really be beating the bushes to see if we can encourage some more girls to come out and play,” said LeRoy.
“We’re going forward with the boys. The numbers aren’t great but they’re doable. Our concern is with the girls’ program.”
LeRoy said he attributes the low numbers to changing demographics at the schools combined with the cost of the sport.
At Deering, for example, the school provides jerseys, socks and travel bags.
But each athlete is responsible to provide their own shinguards, skates, gloves, sticks and helmets.
Skates alone can cost $200. A composite stick can run $100, and is highly likely to break sometime during the season.
“Hockey, unfortunately, has become very expensive,” said LeRoy.
“A lot of families just don’t have that type of money to throw towards their kids’ sports.”
Numbers are slightly better at Portland, said Drummond.
He expects about 20 girls to return next winter. The team went 5-11-2 this past year.
And, he said, numbers with the boys’ program are solid.
“It’s tough in the city of Portland to try and field four high school hockey teams,” said Drummond.
“It just so happens that right now the pendulum is swinging to where Deering is experiencing some low numbers.
“We’ve basically gone out and recruited other multisport athletes who happen to be athletic enough to give us some valuable minutes.”
Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org