There are 15 hockey players in Bristol looking for a team, and there’s a team in Rocky Hill that needs about that number of players. This could be the basis of an ideal partnership, you just need to get the green light.
That’s what a group of parents in Bristol are pushing for this week.
“It’s a small group, but you have to give the kids a chance to play their sport,” said Kristen Hasler, whose sons play hockey in an Avon youth program. “Hockey meant so much to my boys. It’s a great sport, it teaches them such coordination and skills on the ice, it’s a disciplined sport. With everything these kids put into it, it means the world to these kids.
Parents began looking for a chance for secondary school students from Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern to join another school for several years. It was discussed in 2019 and 2020, but when the pandemic hit all traction was lost. In the summer of 22, news broke that Rocky Hill was looking for a partner and, even though it was last minute and Bristol’s budget was set, the new push began.
“For us, this is the last chance,” said Jason Harmon, whose son, Zachary, is entering his final year at Bristol Central. “I’ve been working on it since 2018.”
Hasler’s eldest son, Peyton, is said to be a sophomore at Eastern. If that didn’t happen, he would be the only player on his bantam team not to play high school hockey.
Bristol officials raised a valid concern about the pay-for-play element of such a decision. The cost would be $1,400 per student, which is moderate by hockey standards but could create inequity for families who may not be able to afford it. All the families pushing for it this year are willing to pay, and the arrangement would only be for this school year. Going forward, Bristol’s board could consider making room in the budget for costs, or funds could be raised, Hasler said, to fill in the gaps and ensure no youngsters are left behind. rejected for financial reasons.
“They wanted more time to discuss the pros and cons,” said Chris Kuczenski, whose son, Evan, would be a freshman attendee. “As it was a last minute opportunity for us, it was sort of thrown on their plate at the last minute and they weren’t necessarily thrilled to have to make a rushed decision. We thought they weren’t really listening to us.
The proposal was initially rejected by the school board’s Academic Success Committee, but when the opportunity arose, parents like Hasler, Harmon and Kuczenski got to work, writing letters, use social networks. They got a special committee session to convene and he voted, 2-1 to send the proposal to the full board, which will meet on Wednesday. A yes vote would make high school hockey a reality for Bristol players, a no vote would likely not leave enough time to reconsider in time for this season, which begins in November.
Rocky Hill would provide Cromwell’s ice time and other needs for the co-op program.
“[Bristol] really has nothing to do but say ‘yes’,” Harmon said. “They have nothing to pay.”
The parents are hopeful but not optimistic that the proposal will pass on Wednesday. “Just hopeful,” Hasler said.
I’m going to take a seat in the parent’s corner on this. Schools should provide as many opportunities as possible, because you can never know where a young person will find their calling, make lifelong friends or learn the necessary life skills. This opportunity is at hand for 15 students from Bristol and, according to Kuczenski, there are 28 other young players who would join over the next few years.
Hockey is an expensive sport anyway, so any family with a young player would already be paying fees for years. By the standards of the sport, it would be a more affordable way for kids to play with a public high school, and the arrangement could be reassessed after a year. So I hope the people of Bristol will find a way to open that door.
“Hockey is a lifestyle, it’s not for everyone,” Kuczenski said. “Congratulations to the kids for giving so much of their time to play the sport they love. It teaches kids a lot of sacrifice and commitment to follow their dreams, their goals, their passions. It builds a lot of character.”
Goaltender Tia Chan returned to the UConn women’s hockey team after playing for China at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“It was surreal,” Chan said of her experience. “It’s hard to describe when people ask me, but everywhere you go in the village there are incredible athletes around you. The speed of hockey is phenomenal, really fast. So, yes, it was surreal.
Chan, of Hamilton, Ont., had a promising first season for UConn, going 4-5-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in 2020-21 shortened by COVID. She played for Team China as a “historical player,” along with UConn teammate Camryn Wong and former Huskies Leah Lum. On February 3, Chan started and saved 33 of 36 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Czech Republic. China finished ninth at the Games.
What does she hope to bring back to UConn?
“The professionalism of some of the girls in the Chinese team,” Chan said. “There were girls who were beyond my definition of hard work. What I thought about hard work was that they were way above it. Every minute of their lives was dedicated to hockey, be it the nutrition, recovery, 100% every rep, every lift, everything.”
The UConn team reached the Hockey East final last season and was ranked in the top 10 for a while. “I’ve definitely missed the girls and the team culture,” Chan said.
Chan came back with a 3-0 victory over RIT on September 23, making 30 saves. Wong scored the first goal of the season for the Huskies.
Windsor High inducts its final Athletic Hall of Famers Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. at the Windsor Marriott. Class of 2022:
Curtis Collette, 1987, soccer, swimming, lacrosse; Chad Robinson ’89, basketball; Andrea Grace ’99, soccer, basketball; Alesandra Neal ’01, basketball, track; Johnell Burts ’04, field hockey, basketball; Justin Wilson 2008, football, basketball, track; Jamie Wakefield ’11, soccer, lacrosse; Brian Gillespie, Distinguished Supporter; Joanne Chasen, coach, cheerleading and track. Team inductions: 1981 CVC Conference Women’s Championship Track and Field Team and 1975 CVC Conference Champion Football Team. For tickets and information, visit windsorhighathletichalloffame.org.
* The Orioles’ hiring of former New Britain High coach Roberto Mercado as Class A manager can be called an unqualified success. Mercado led the Aberdeen IronBirds to the South Atlantic League Championship Series and was named the winner of the organization’s Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award this week. Mercado will spend this week in Baltimore observing and working with the major league team.
* If the name sounded familiar, Jays pitcher Tim Mayza, who allowed Aaron Judge’s 61st homer, is the brother of former UHart women’s basketball captain Deanna Mayzawho had 1,222 points and 476 assists for the Hawks.
* UConn’s new hockey rink will be a neat, state-of-the-art and very intimate little gem, with 2,600 seats. It was determined, when the plans were approved, that based on attendance, this is the right size. UConn will play one game of Hockey East, Northeastern, in Game 1 on Jan. 14, and has been granted league permission to use a smaller arena, as long as the design would allow a future expansion of 3,500 places.
* The way the Guardians have lined up their rotation, East Windsor’s Aaron Civale could get the ball for Game 1 if they advance to the Division Series to face the Yankees. Civale came off the injured list in September and pitched well, striking out seven in five innings on Sept. 25 as Cleveland clinched the AL Central, and made another quality start Friday night.
Roger Maris Jr. raised eyebrows this week when he said Aaron Judge should be “revered” as the single-season home run record holder, and he doubled down with a Tweet later. That’s his right, though it’s a little ironic that he seemed to claim an asterisk, because in baseball, records aren’t just numbers. Baseball fans know and will always know that Babe Ruth turned 60 in a 154-game season when baseball was separated. Roger Maris hit 61 in the first year of the 162-game schedule, an expansion year. Mark McGwire’s 70, also in a year of expansion, and Barry Bonds’ 73 are both tainted with steroids. “Legit” recordings are in the eye of the beholder; it will be up to individual fans and future generations to consider the stories behind the numbers and come to their own conclusions.
Dom Amore can be reached at [email protected]