School board reopens hockey discussion

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 2/4/97.

A delegation from the Paynesville/ New London Hockey Association asked the Paynesville Area School Board to reopen the issue on hockey, at their meeting Tuesday night.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the board had received a letter from Bob Brink, Cold Spring Activities Director, asking if the school was interested in discussing the possibility of a co-op. Cold Spring had received ďyesĒ replies back from Albany and New London-Spicer.

Attending the Paynesville board meeting were: Al Habben, Otto Naujokas, and Mike Mackedanz from the Paynesville-New London Hockey Association and Janel Eveslage, Cold Spring Hockey Association.

Habben reminded the board the Paynesville Hockey Association has been around since 1963 and a lot of improvements have been made to the program over the years.

ďWe are asking that the district further pursue the possibility of a co-op with Cold Spring,Ē Habben said. ďWe have 92 players this year and Cold Spring 120. Our junior midget team is presently playing in the metro conference which consists of players in tenth through 12th grades. Paynesville has 16 boys varsity age and 15 girls, while Cold Spring has 23 boys and 17 girls old enough for the varsity team.

ďPlaying in the metro conference involves a lot of travel time because we have no access to local teams. All the area hockey programs are in the high school league,Ē Habben added. Local towns with high school hockey programs are Sauk Centre, Benson, Annandale/Maple Lake, Willmar, St. Cloud, Buffalo and Litchfield/Dassel/ Cokato.

Habben went on to explain the local association would like to gain access to the high school league, but to do that they need local school support. ďWe want some open mindedness. We donít want to see the door slammed shut. We realize funding is a big question but letís put that on the back burner for now. We just want to gain more information on the possibilities,Ē he said.

Habben told the board it costs Sauk Centre and Maple Lake between $10,000 and $30,000 per year per team for their hockey program. Sauk Centre has 40 participants in their program and their hockey association pays up front each year for the program.

Mackedanz presented a three-year cost breakdown of the Sauk Centre hockey program to the board. He explained when the program first started, the association had a three-year contract with the district to cover expenses for the hockey program. But since that time, it has been a one-year contract.

Board member Dean Hanson raised the question as to why the local association couldnít approach Cold Spring on their own.

Habben didnít feel they would be taken seriously without a school representative with them.

Board member Pat Flanders stated a district the size of Paynesville canít afford to pick up another sport. ďWe canít just talk one sport, but two, one for the boys and another for the girls to keep in compliance with gender equity.Ē Eveslage informed the board there are some 800 cooperative sports programs in the state now.

Superintendent Howard Caldwell reminded everybody present, the district canít be void of accountability. ďWhether someone else pays for the program or not, we are the ones who have to answer to the high school league rules,Ē he said. ďAnd, how would adding another sport impact our other programs?Ē

Mackedanz didnít feel it would have any impact on other sports and the kids skating presently arenít competing in winter sports. ďIf it took anyone, it would be the bench warmer who is playing basketball because nothing else is offered,Ē he added. ďWe have a pretty good girlís team. They have placed third in the state the last two years.Ē

The board agreed to send Bill Virant, activities director, and members of the hockey association to an information meeting to learn more about Cold Springís proposal.

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