School district cuts girls hockey

Monday, May 6, 2013 - 07:46
Chugiak-Eagle River players disappointed with decision
Chugiak-Eagle River, in blue, battles Service-East during the 2012-13 girls’ high school hockey season. The Anchorage School District announced April 24 that it is discontinuing the sport due to low participation numbers.

The Anchorage School District’s decision to eliminate the girls’ high school hockey program was met with disappointment by the Chugiak-Eagle River team.

“Everybody’s pretty bummed,” CER coach Randall Sperry said.

Citing a lack of participation, ASD made the announcement to cut girls’ hockey April 24.

Just 84 girls played this past season, according to the district.

“Ultimately, there was not sufficient interest to continue this program,” high school supervisor Derek Hagler said. “It’s just a supply and demand issue, and we just found the demand is not there.”

South High had the most players with 16, followed by West and Service (14 apiece), Dimond (13), Eagle River (11), Chugiak (9), East (4) and Bartlett (3).

For the past decade, girls’ hockey has existed under a waiver from the Alaska School Activities Association, which allowed students from ASD’s eight public schools to form four teams. Chugiak and Eagle River played as one team, as did Service-East, South-Bartlett and Dimond-West.

ASAA had hoped each school could eventually field its own team, but that hasn’t happened.

“The change is not easy,” ASD Superintendent Ed Graff said in a press release. “The female athletes, coaches and parents who have participated in girls’ hockey during the last decade have committed time, energy and dedication to the program, but it simply has not grown like we hoped or anticipated.”

With the loss of the four ASD teams, just two girls’ high school hockey programs — based in Fairbanks and the Mat-Su Valley — remain in the state.

At just $195, playing high school hockey was an incredible deal for players. But it cost the district significantly.

For the 2011-12 season, the district spent $168,000 — about $2,000 per player — on girls’ hockey, said ASD spokeswoman Heidi Embley.

Sperry said he would have liked to see actions taken to prevent the program’s elimination, such as raising the participation fee or reducing the number of on-ice practices.

“Do something to try to keep it alive,” he said.

While potential returners were saddened, Sperry said, several parents of elementary- and middle-school-aged players have also been voicing their displeasure.

“That’s actually where our numbers are,” said Sperry, who serves as the Mustang Hockey Association’s girls’ coordinator. “The timing makes it more difficult to swallow.”

High school hockey has grown in popularity among Chugiak-Eagle River players, Sperry said. All but one on this year’s team exclusively played for the high school team rather than a club team, he said.

One option for girls seeking to continue skating is through MHA, Sperry said. If the numbers support it, MHA will field a U-19 team, he said.

“We’ll have coaches and ice times for any girls high-school age on down that want to play,” Sperry said. “We’ll offer whatever is needed.”


Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727

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