Fremont Ross hockey looking for some love
As the fall sports season winds to a close, my thoughts drift toward local winter sports ... basketball, wrestling, swimming, hockey...
Yep, that's right. Hockey.
You might not know this, but Fremont Ross has a hockey team. In fact, this will be the team's fourth year. This year, they have enough players for a junior varsity program. They'll be playing their first year in the Northwest Hockey Conference, a circuit including some of the larger and more successful programs in Northwest Ohio, if not the state. Except for 2004, an NHC team has been in the state tournament every year since the conference started in 1978.
The state and the conference recognize the Little Giants on Ice as a varsity program. The school doesn't.
And therein lies the rub.
Although the team gets recognition in Columbus from the OHSAA and throughout Northwest Ohio from its conference, it's still seeking a little love from the hometown.
"The main thing we are looking for is getting the kids the recognition they deserve," said coach Eric Theller.
The team pays to play, as much as $450 a child for equipment, not counting fund-raisers for other fees. More than any other sport, hockey is expensive. Players must pay for their own pads and skates. The team must also rent ice time. The district does pay for half the cost of busing, assistant coach Mike Sipsma said.
"It's a very expensive sport," said athletic director Art Bucci.
Bucci said the expenses make it untenable at this time to endorse hockey as a varsity sport -- a worthy argument in a day when teachers are on a pay freeze and any new or improved athletic facilities are built with donations and the sale of personal seat licenses.
Bucci went on to recommend to principal Sandy Werling that pay to play is ill-advised in this instance.
"It is unfair to any student athlete if one sport has to pay more than the others do. I feel that this could cause hostility within the athletic department and among the coaches and athletes," Bucci wrote in a memorandum to Werling in September.
Werling then told Theller that it would not be fiscally responsible to recommend hockey be adopted as a sport.
"They think we're going to get into their hip pocket," Sipsma said.
Again, I can see the validity of this argument. Although the current hockey boosters and coaches aren't looking for money, who's to say the next bunch won't look for money?
In the meantime, hockey boosters have gone on to appeal that decision to the school board, appearing at their meeting last week asking for consideration.
Hockey boosters will meet with the board's finance committee Tuesday, and with the board's policy committee Nov. 8.
"We're looking for some middle ground," Theller said.
It might be as simple as recognition at pep rallies.
"We don't want any money," Sipsma said. "We just want them recognized with a letter."
Theller's son E.J. is a senior this year. He also plays soccer, so he'll be honored at the senior awards banquet at the end of the year. Some other seniors -- six, in fact -- won't be so lucky. They'll have played hockey for four years for Fremont Ross without any recognition from their alma mater.
In a sports-crazy town like Fremont, isn't there room for one more?
Vince Guerrieri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org