OLD TOWN, Maine — The athletic directors at Orono and Old Town high schools with members of their ice hockey boosters clubs will meet at Old Town High School on Jan. 15 to discuss a possible merger.
Orono athletic director Mike Archer has drawn up a tentative proposal for the merger. He said there is “a lot to be done” if they do decide to combine teams.
Officially, there are nine teams among the 43 in boys high school hockey that carry the names of at least two schools that run a team cooperatively. There is one with three: Hall-Dale/Maranacook/Winthrop.
And there are other teams with players from multiple schools that retain the name of the primary school. For example, there are three players from Madison High School who play for Skowhegan although Skowhegan has retained the name.
Orono is facing a dire situation in terms of numbers.
There are 13 seniors among the 17-player roster and Archer said “there appears to be only two players coming in next year.”
So there would be no way Orono could put a team on the ice with just six players.
Old Town’s situation is much better, according to Old Town athletic director Brett Hoogterp.
The Coyotes have just four seniors among their 17-player roster and have 11 freshmen and sophomores.
“We feel we could sustain our program for at least another three or four years,” said Hoogterp. “But I can’t predict what will happen four or five years down the road and if we’d find ourselves in Orono’s situation.”
Hoogterp said he understands “both sides” of the discussion but said he values the opinion of his hockey boosters club and will wait to hear how they weigh in on it.
If they do merge, their combined enrollment could bump them up into Class A.
Archer and Hoogterp are in total agreement on one aspect of it: if they do merge it will be on a long-term basis.
“We’ll be in it for the long haul. We don’t just want to be together for three years until Orono regains its numbers,” said Hoogterp.
“It has to be a long-term marriage,” agreed Archer. “If the numbers go up, we can have a [junior varsity] team with a full JV schedule.”
The two teams have had a combined JV team in the past but not this season because they don’t have the numbers.
Archer said they will have to move quickly because they will have to petition the Maine Principals’ Association by this May in order to become a co-op team for next season.
If they do become a co-op team, they will have to decide on a variety of things like a coach, team colors and the financial split of running the team.
Orono coach Greg Hirsch is stepping down after 19 years at the helm following this season and Ryan Bernard is in his first year as the head coach at Old Town High.