High school administrators will meet Monday morning in the wake of a contractual impasse between the Maine Principals’ Association and on-ice game officials that could jeopardize seasons for girls’ and boys’ hockey this winter.

“We’re meeting together in response to the letter that came out from the Maine Principals’ Association to try to figure out the next steps we can do to try to ensure that we have a hockey season in 2022-23,” said Gary Stevens, the athletic director at Thornton Academy.

On Wednesday, the principals’ association informed member schools that the Maine chapter of the National Ice Hockey Officials Association had once again rejected a three-year contract from the MPA, the agency that oversees high school sports in the state. The contract, which called for hockey officials to receive a per-game increase from $78 last winter to $82 this school year (and up to $87.50 in 2024-25), was originally rejected by hockey officials in April.

The MPA recently asked the hockey officials’ group to accept the one-year increase with a proposal to revisit the second and third year after this season. That offer was rejected by the hockey officials on Tuesday. Hockey officials have stated they want to be paid $90 per game for the 2022-23 season – a 15 percent increase over last season. It is unclear what, if any, demands the officials’ group made for the following seasons.

Hockey officials will not work MPA games without a contract, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. There are fewer than 60 hockey game officials in the state, and they work not only interscholastic games, but also games at the youth and college level.

The MPA’s letter did not offer a solution for getting the game officials back on the ice.


“Should there be officials available to work high school hockey games, the MPA Ice Hockey Committee is fully prepared to move forward with a season,” the letter stated, later adding that “the MPA Officials Advisory Committee informed the ice hockey officials that they would not open negotiations in the middle of a contract year.”

Neither MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham nor Chris Parsons, president of the Maine chapter of ice hockey officials’ group, could be reached for interviews.

With practices set to begin on Nov. 7 for girls’ hockey teams and Nov. 21 for boys’ teams, coaches and school administrators are scrambling to find ways to preserve the season. That includes possibly playing a school-run league without the sanction or support of the MPA.

Greely Athletic Director David Shapiro said as an “eternal optimist, I fully believe we will be able to solve this and have an MPA-sponsored boys’ and girls’ hockey season.”

Others aren’t as optimistic, especially with the season rapidly approaching.

Monday’s meeting will focus on determining what school administrators can and are willing to do in response to the impasse, Stevens said. Neither the MPA nor the officials’ group is expected to be represented at the meeting.


“Can we as schools do something separately if MPA is unable to offer a season? And, if so, who is interested and, most of all, who is the governance?” Stevens said. “What we’re trying to figure out, is what can we do, what are we allowed to do and where do we want to proceed from here?”

The discussion will likely include looking at the contingency plan put forth by a coaches’ group calling itself Maine High School Hockey. Its plan is to pay on-ice officials $90 per game and to have a season modeled on the MPA guidelines, using regular-season schedules already in place. The boys’ and girls’ leagues would be administered by a nine-coach board of directors.

“We don’t want to go rogue. We don’t want to be just another youth travel league,” said AJ Kavanaugh, the varsity boys’ coach at Mt. Ararat and the coaches’ liaison to the MPA Hockey Committee. “We want this to continue to be school-based athletics. That is absolutely unanimous among coaches. No one wants to get rid of the bona-fide team rules, academic eligibility and coaches’ eligibility standards.”

The Maine High School Hockey proposal does include some significant changes from the current MPA format.

Boys’ hockey would be one division, separated into North and South regions. (Currently, boys’ hockey has Class A and Class B, based on enrollment.) Instead of using Heal points to determine playoff seeding, it would use a power ranking formula like that used in other states to account for strength of schedule. Also proposed is having a Super 8 tournament for the top boys’ teams, which would use a best-of-three playoff format. Teams that don’t qualify for or don’t want to participate in the Super 8 tournament would have their own boys’ tournament.

Kavanaugh said a concern expressed by some coaches is that if the sport is not an official MPA sport, then their schools might decide to withhold funding.


Stevens noted other questions must be addressed. What entity will provide governance over hockey if it’s not done by the MPA? Could the MPA impose repercussions for forming a separate league if a season has not been officially canceled?

And if there is to be a new league for high school hockey, it would need to have an agreement in place with game officials.

“Before officials will step on the ice, they have to have an agreement, and from what I’m hearing it has to be $90 per game,” Kavanaugh said. Since schools had already budgeted for $82 per official, Kavanaugh said increasing the rate to $90 would cost schools an additional $144 for nine home games.

Kavanaugh, who also coaches youth hockey, said he understands the bargaining positions of both the MPA’s and the game officials.

The MPA also has been negotiating contracts with game officials in other sports, with only lacrosse officials yet to come to an agreement with the principals’ association. By the end of the three-year contracts, almost all sports officials would receive the same rate of $87.50 per varsity contest, regardless of sport. Hockey’s pay rate would increase 12 percent over the three years. Other sports, would see a significantly larger increase.

“I get their stance,” Kavanaugh said of the MPA. “If they go up (in price) with ice hockey, then they fear they’ll hear it from everyone else, and across all sports that would be a big hit for school budgets.”

Hockey game officials can earn more money, often with less travel time, officiating non-interscholastic games.

Pee Wee games routinely pay $50 an hour and officials often ref back-to-back games. Typical time at the arena for a high school game is at least two-and-a-half hours. Prep school and Tier 1 16-under games often pay $140 per game. Kavanaugh said an official working a Bowdoin College game makes $195.

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