2017-11-12 / Sports

THE PRESSBOX

Co-ops continue to sustain high school hockey programs

If not for the forward-thinking athletic directors at our area high schools, along with the Michigan High School Athletic Association, high school hockey may be dormant at many schools. Our six area hockey teams each lost a minimum of six kids off the rosters. With no junior varsity programs at all but two, that leaves some big voids. That’s where the co-ops come into play. Hockey is an expensive sport. Skates, gloves, pads, helmets, mouth guards, hockey pants and socks. That adds up quickly. Add in the cost of the ice time and you’re talking some significant cost when compared to the other winter sports where just a uniform, shoes and mouth guard is required.

Still, the hockey programs march on and bring in new schools, join new conferences and offer whatever financial assistance it can through scholarships. High school hockey is still very popular across Michigan. The standalone programs that can remain as such are few and far between these days. Locally, Davison, Grand Blanc, and Flint Powers Catholic are the only two stand alones left in Genesee County and Lapeer stands as the sole standalone program in Lapeer County.

Lapeer starts this season under new coach Steve Seres, Lapeer County Hockey Association board member. His main objective will be to help the Lightning clean the slate and start over after a tumultuous last season that ended with a sub-par record and a social media bullying incident against a Midland player.

Lapeer’s program has been in a state of flux the past couple of seasons. Naysayers that want to discount that or point the finger at former coach Todd York need to look elsewhere. I’ve been covering Lapeer hockey for the better part of 13 years and you just don’t have a coach that took several Lapeer West teams to multiple Flint Metro League titles and a regional title all of sudden become passive. When players either don’t agree with a coach, struggle with their skills, and feed off the negativity and noise that surrounds it, something’s wrong internally at the player level.

Fighting at the hockey high school level isn’t allowed. Yet, Lapeer hasn’t been able to get out of its own way. We’ve seen it far too often over the past seasons and I personally hope this newest change puts an end to that. Maybe it will also help point the team back to the success that York and his assistant coaches (his former players by the way) saw.

Lapeer need only watch the Alliance (Goodrich/LakeVille/ North Branch/Imlay City/ Almont) to see what a hockey program can do. Coach Tom Ferreri has had this team performing at a level that is steps ahead of most in the area, with the exception of Davison and Powers. The Alliance also bid farewell to six or so kids, but Ferreri tells us that those voids have been filled.

We’re looking forward to the competition that the Alliance and Lapeer will see in their respective leagues this season and just some good, clean hockey games. See our hockey season preview on this page for the specific challenges and strengths of each team as they open the season this next week.

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