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  • Bangor Daily News

    Presque Isle will host cooperative high school hockey team

    By Paula Brewer,

    28 days ago

    With approval from the SAD 1 school board, a group of Aroostook County schools will form a cooperative hockey team for the 2024-25 school year.

    Players from Caribou, Central Aroostook, Fort Kent and Wisdom high schools will join the Presque Isle Wildcat team, SAD 1 Athletic Director Mark White said during the board’s May 14 meeting.

    Seeing declining student enrollment, the Maine Principals’ Association instituted cooperative teams to allow as many athletes as possible to participate. About eight years ago, the Carlisle swim team was one of The County’s first such teams, with members from Caribou and Presque Isle high schools and the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.

    After 30 years of robust rosters, SAD 1 faces a projected decline in upcoming hockey players. Allowing other students in would keep hockey going, White said.

    “This cooperative is not a fast pass to a regional or state championship,” he said. “It is a road to keep what we have and keep what this community invested in hockey.”

    Cooperative hockey teams are common in Maine high schools, White said. Of the 31 boys high school hockey teams in the state, 18 are cooperative squads.

    In the Wildcats’ Class B North division, there are 10 teams, with seven of those cooperative. The team has thrived for more than 30 years, but numbers are going down.

    The team is tied closely to Presque Isle Youth Hockey, a community organization that serves as a feeder program to the Wildcats, White said. About 40 percent of those players are from schools outside SAD 1, which includes Castle Hill, Chapman, Mapleton, Presque Isle and Westfield.

    Youth hockey leaders projected that for the next five years, there would be only 16 players a year coming into Wildcat hockey. That’s not doable, White said.

    “I wouldn’t want to start a season with 16, because whether it be injuries, discipline, other issues, that 16 in November could be 12 or 13 in March,” he said. “Sixteen is not a number that I’m comfortable with.”

    White contacted school administrators from Caribou, Mars Hill, Fort Kent and St. Agatha, and also met with parents. Four students — one from each school — want to join a cooperative team, he said.

    Athletes would meet the academic and eligibility guidelines of their schools and would need to find transportation to and from Presque Isle. The projected cost is $2,500 per athlete, details of which haven’t been worked out.

    The team would remain Presque Isle Wildcats and wear Wildcat uniforms, and would stay in Class B North, White said. As per MPA rules, students from other schools may have to wear a hat decal or patch signifying it’s a cooperative team.

    He and SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw agreed that if at some point around 95 percent of the team is from SAD 1 again, the cooperative team would end, White said. Players from other schools would finish their high school hockey careers, but the program would not accept new members from outside the district.

    The school board voted unanimously to approve the cooperative hockey team starting this fall.

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