The Cazenovia High School athletes who plan to tryout and play for the varsity hockey team this coming season may notice a number of new faces with them on the ice.
During the Cazenovia Central School District Board of Education meeting on Oct. 15, members approved a one-year agreement allowing Hamilton Central School District students to tryout and ultimately play alongside local students as Lakers. The decision came as roster numbers for both districts, especially those of Hamilton, continue to slowly decline.
“We are trying to help out Hamilton students,” said Superintendent Bob Dubik, who has been discussing this issue with HCSD Superintendent Diana Bowers for the past few months.
All interested players in grades 9 through 12 will be welcome to tryout at the beginning of the season. If Hamilton athletes wish to play on the Cazenovia team, the Hamilton district will owe the CCSD a total of $1,100 for each player. No cuts will be made to the roster, although it is understood not all players will dress to compete on game day, as Coach Jon Davignon looks to find the best fit for certain positions on-ice.
“Whenever schools combine sports programs many variables come into play, such as playing time, roster size and finances. I feel the board of education reached a sensible and careful decision and we are ready to move forward in a positive direction for our program,” said CCSD Athletic Director Michael Byrnes. “We will still be known as [the] Cazenovia Lakers … and the [district] will still be in charge of leading and managing the program. Once the final roster is set, all students on the team will be treated as equals and the coaches will attempt to put the most competitive varsity team on the ice, game after game, as is their job as coaches.”
A number of parents of district hockey players were in attendance, some in favor of the merger, others opposed. Apprehension rose with the idea of accepting Hamilton players to the team while possibly cutting Cazenovia athletes, causing the board to decide no cuts would be made to the roster this year. Other parental worries expressed dealt with the children’s playing time and varying competitive levels.
Davignon had previously expressed concern that having too many players on the ice during practices would lead to dangerous situations while decreasing individual instruction time. However, board members felt this would be an opportunity for the district to ensure the future of the hockey program in Cazenovia while assisting Hamilton players who would otherwise sit the season out.
The board discussed the issue at length, and while the final decision wasn’t reached unanimously, the overall sense was positive. If the arrangement works well, the schools will look to extend the one-year agreement next year.
“I am pleased that the Cazenovia Board of Education spent thoughtful time in voting on the proposed merger between Cazenovia High School and Hamilton High School. I am looking forward to working with the Hamilton Athletic Department and our new teammates in Hamilton to help make this transition as smooth as possible for the hockey programs,” Byrnes said. “We agree that as time moves forward, this moment will be looked at as an important time in the preservation of what has been a longtime and successful tradition of hockey being a sport offered through our CCSD sports program.”
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.