What is happening to the state of hockey when a high school doesn’t have enough players to put a team on the ice?
Richfield had 19 kids play summer hockey but by the time the season started, only 11 players and two goalies were left, the Star Tribune said.
Then two players were suspended and another quit.
Wait a minute, boys. Did someone say “quit?”
Let’s step into the NewsCut Wayback Machine and revisit the 2010 Wrenshall Wrens girls basketball team, which didn’t have enough players so had to play JV players. They had no chance in any game they played, losing to Moose Lake at one point 65-to-0.
Here’s the total number of players who quit: Zero.
I don’t know where the girls of Wrenshall 2010 are now, but wherever they are, they’re probably successful women.
In declaring an early end to the season in Richfield, coach Dave Shute was brutally honest in describing the kids who stuck it out, saying he only had “five or six halfway decent players.” He said the other players he “couldn’t even put on the ice. They’ve got hearts as big as a lion’s, but they can’t even protect themselves.”
Eleven players isn’t enough to play a game but — and I say this as a high school hockey player whose team was 0-19 and a college player who was the only one on his team who could skate backwards (which didn’t prevent us from regularly getting slaughtered by a seminary) — isn’t there’s some value in trying to play anyway?
But that was then and this is now and activities director Dave Boie gave voice to a present reality: hockey is for rich kids. The rich kids are mostly in the suburbs.
“It’s a socioeconomic issue in other communities, too,” Boie said. “It wasn’t if for Richfield, but when.”
Still, there are kids who want to play and can’t because it’s already too late to get them on other teams.
No doubt there are plenty of factors at play here besides demographics alone. High school sports has changed and more kids have to choose what one sport to specialize in.
But Shute is right. It’s a “sad day” when the remaining kids who were willing to stick it out through one lost cause after another don’t get a chance to learn the lessons of doing so.