Hanover JV Hockey Looks for Funding

  • Cameron Woods, center, and Bill Miles, Hanover High junior varsity boys assistant coach, are shown during a January 2017, practice at Campion Rink. Woods is now a member of the varsity and Miles spoke Tuesday in support of the program becoming funded by the Dresden School Board. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Hanover — The Dresden School District’s proposed budget for next school year includes $16,000 to fund a Hanover High junior varsity boys hockey team that has been self-funded in the past.

“The purpose of these next three meetings is to finalize the budget, so I can’t guarantee you (the hockey funding) will stay there,” School Board Chairman Neil Odell said at a Tuesday night gathering in the high school library.

Dresden, which manages Hanover High and shares authority over the Richmond Middle School, is projected to spend $26.5 million, a 1.9 percent increase, in the upcoming school year.

The rough cost of JV ice time for the 2016-17 school year was $10,000, and the approximate cost of bus transportation was $2,000, according to a Dresden expenditure sheet. Families with players on the JV hockey squad have paid as much as $1,500 per season per player in recent years. Their sons have counted toward the school’s Title IX reports to the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, Hanover High School Principal Justin Campbell said.

Dick Dodds, in his 36th year as the Marauders’ boys varsity hockey coach, spoke on Tuesday in favor of the JV team’s inclusion in the budget, as did junior varsity assistant Bill Miles. Two mothers of hockey-playing boys also addressed the board.

Dodds is an Enfield resident who grew up in Hanover, played for the Marauders and began his coaching career as his alma mater’s boys JV coach in 1981. He told the gathering that 75 percent of varsity players during the past four years began their Hanover High careers skating with the junior varsity. Dodds and JV coach Marty White have personally contributed funds to keep the lower-tier program alive.

Miles, whose grown son, Matthew, once skated for the junior varsity, said there’s no other place for sub-varsity competitors to play unless they were to seek out club teams in areas such as Rutland, Manchester and Montpelier. He added that some of the Marauders’ best junior varsity players have been students who didn’t want to skate the five or six times per week required at the varsity level.

“They might be magicians or dancers or theater kids who still want the (hockey) experience,” said Miles, whose team practices two or three times per week and has an 18-game schedule. “Hockey is also a lifetime sport. We have lots of men’s and women’s leagues around here.”

Miles said that when he interacts with coaches from other New Hampshire schools, “they’re kind of amazed that Hanover, with one of the oldest hockey traditions in the state, does not have a funded program. It puts me on the defensive, and I hope that’s not a position I will be in during the future.”

Hanover athletic director Mike Jackson said last year that an inconsistent turnout from year to year and the relatively high cost of the sport have worked against junior varsity hockey’s cost being included in the school’s annual athletic budget of more than $600,000.

The NHIAA does not allow girls to play for the Marauders’ boys junior varsity hockey team because there is a girls varsity hockey team. This rule applies, even though there is no Hanover girls junior varsity hockey team.

Miles said he asked if players cut from Lebanon High’s varsity boys team could join the Hanover JV team but discovered they could practice but not play in games. Lebanon, Woodstock and Hartford do not have boys or girls junior varsity hockey squads.

Jackson, who’s stepping down after the current school year and who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, described himself last year as “philosophically against pay-for-play.”

He said the $150 schoolwide sports participation fee, which junior varsity hockey parents have typically not paid, was implemented in 1996. That was because of overwhelming demand for high school athletic teams, Jackson said last year.

Swimming, diving and crew also once were self-funded Hanover sports. As participant numbers rose and stabilized, however, their expenses were added into the annual budget by the School Board and town voters.

Campbell, in response to a question as to how JV hockey funding was chosen to be added to the budget, said he advocated for it because he’s found the self-funding model for sports to be problematic. He said that if the JV hockey funding is cut from next year’s budget, self-funding would be the program’s fallback position.

“A few years down the road, after (self-funding is) approved for a team by the school board, new parents are confused as to why they’re paying the participation fee and then writing an additional check,” Campbell said. “It’s caused headaches, and I’m having these sort of conversations fairly regularly. This will clean up our athletic program in advance of hiring our next athletic director.”

Said board member Dan Rockmore, whose son plays youth hockey: “You wouldn’t only have a high-level math class and nothing else for the rest of the students. You can’t just fund the best athletes and no one else, because it’s not fair. I guess we’ve decided in Hanover that we’re not going to do that.”

Norwich resident Katharine Kitchel has a son playing at the Hanover Youth Hockey Association’s Bantam level. That’s a slot for 13- and 14-year old players and the highest boys age group offered by the association.

Kitchel’s son is an eighth-grader at the Richmond Middle School and will be too old to play Bantams next winter. Without a JV program, he cannot continue to compete in organized hockey without extensive travel.

“My son has played since he was 4 years old, but that’s just not an option for our family,” said Kitchel, a former rower at Dartmouth.

Kathryn Zug has had two daughters who play varsity hockey at Hanover High and also has a son on its JV team. She said at Tuesday’s meeting that her older daughter mentions lessons learned during her high school athletic days when interviewing for jobs and that she wants her son to have those same experiences.

“My son’s been on the JV team for three years,” Zug said. “It’s a home for him, a community. The coaches are wonderful and I can’t imagine him without this sport in the winter.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.