Mt. Ararat’s Maddie Young skates along the boards while chasing the puck with York’s Zoe Jellison during a Class A game last season at Bowdoin College. The Times Record file photo

The coronavirus has already impacted Maine high school fall sports, with delays to season-opening practices and competition.  

The pandemic also could impact some winter sports as well, most notably hockey.

Brunswick High School, Mt. Ararat High School and many youth hockey programs in the Midcoast rely on Bowdoin College for ice time. But with Bowdoin College shuttering sports until at least Jan. 1, the school’s Sidney J. Watson Arena may not be available for community use anytime soon.

Jim Caton, assistant athletic director at Bowdoin, said the school won’t know until November if the rink will be able to be used by the Midcoast community. 

“For our purposes, there is a possibility for use,” Caton said. “For example, the rink is used by local schools. I think the expectation is that there would be no community use in that time and no official team practice until Jan. 1. Then the decision is, if we are playing winter sports, second semester hockey, is it open to high school in addition? We would love to but that would be dependent on November and December.”

Bowdoin plans to make a decision in November with regards to its winter season. If the Polar Bears are to play, it opens the door to high schools using the rink. 

“Ideally we would love to have the rink and pool open for community school use but it would be impossible to know,” Caton said. “I know particularly (Brunswick High School athletic director) Jeff (Ramich) and (Bowdoin director of athletics) Tim Ryan speak frequently and they are in touch and they rely heavily for our indoor facilities, so that will be a bigger decision… If come November we feel safe enough to have winter sports, then we will look into it.”

If Bowdoin decides against a winter season, Brunswick will be looking for new places to play. 

Ramich told The Times Record that he has “called four area rinks and waiting to hear back.”

Brunswick boys hockey coach Mike Misner has also been looking into alternatives if high school hockey can be played this winter. 

Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse’s Noah Magda (2) skates with the puck during a hockey game last season at Watson Arena in Brunswick. The Times Record file photo

“As far as what I’ve been told or understand, at the earliest Bowdoin would be putting ice down is January,” Misner said. “I know some other teams besides Brunswick and Mt. Ararat are trying to find ice because the University of Southern Maine is having the same approach as Bowdoin. That puts quite a few teams looking for ice to make it difficult to say the least.”

Teams sometimes travel great distances to get practice time in. Almost every high school has a basketball court, but everyone relies on outside rinks to play hockey.

“I think it certainly impacts the growth of the sport,” Misner said. “If you look at a state like Minnesota where every little community has a rink and participates, it would help.”

Lewiston’s Androscoggin Bank Colisee has been a popular destination for southern and central Maine teams, and is on Brunswick’s watch list. 

Colisee owner Darryl Antonacci said he is only supporting Lewiston High School at the moment, but he will put on weekend tournaments if players want to put teams together. 

“We wouldn’t have the space for other high schools because we have a hockey academy and a junior team,” Antonacci said. “We can support these weekend tournaments. We are recognizing there’s not a lot of room for team practice and so maybe these players will put together their own teams and the schedule is in the works right now. We are getting those out to teams within an hour of Lewiston or so for several teams in October through December.”

In March, Antonacci said, “major facility improvements and program enhancements” were being planned for “the near future.” 

Antonacci told The Times Record that the improvements include electronic ads on the sides of the rink, a 16×30-foot jumbotron outside for a drive-in-style viewing service, and inside renovations that include a sports pub and a buffet-style restaurant. 

Outside of hockey, Bowdoin is keeping the same rules for its indoor track and pool. If there aren’t winter sports at Bowdoin, the facilities won’t be open. 

“It’s such a fluid situation and if you had told me in March that there would be no high school or college fall sports I would’ve thought you were crazy and now we are in August with no fall and hopefully a semblance of a winter season,” Caton said. “If there is no vaccine in December it will be really hard for anybody to make that call for it to be safe enough to have indoor winter competition.”

The local youth hockey programs will also be hurt, just as some baseball, lacrosse and track and field programs have been already. 

“That’s a killer because that’s a big investment,” Caton said. “It’s important for a lot of those kids to make the jump to high school hockey and they invest a ton of money so it would be huge to lose a season but it’s the way of the world.”

At the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, arena manager Marc Gosselin said he will be hosting hockey teams from Edward Little, St. Dom’s, Gray New Gloucester, Leavitt and Poland high schools. 

“We are working with other regional high schools on their needs as they continue to plan for this upcoming fall and winter hockey season.

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