Three Schools, One Team

Unlike the basketball team or swim team, ice hockey is not just a BHS supported winter sport. In fact, the “tri-op” brings students from BHS, as well as Brookfield and Danbury High School, together to play as one team against other Division Three schools.

This partnership began ten years ago, in the 2001-2002 season, when Bethel and Brookfield joined forces in order to keep their students in skates. The ‘Ice Cats,’ which was named to support both the Bethel Wildcats and the Brookfield Bobcats, welcomed Danbury to the cooperative program three years ago. Being the only local hockey team for three schools does have its challenges.

Other area coaches report that the cooperative alternative creates an uneven playing field for schools that can afford to support their own hockey program. “A lot of us don’t agree with the co-op schools. We feel like we are the underdog, one school playing against three different high schools,” said Newtown head coach Paul Esposito to Bethel Patch.

The arguments against these integrated programs have increased as more and more teams are forced to join together in order to keep ice hockey alive. “It’s all about cost,” says BBD Ice Cats goalie coach Ned Costanzo. “This sport can cost up to 2,000 dollars for parents to spend on equipment. Not to mention the cost it takes for an athletic department of a school to purchase ice time at local ice rinks.” The need for funding causes teams such as BBD to come together in order to lighten the load that each school must pay. But, not all hockey programs need this support which is the rift that separates the Ice Cats from teams such as the Newtown Nighthawks.

In the opinion of BBD players, the tri-op has been nothing but positive. Ice Cat captain, Justin Sullivan from DHS says that being in a multiple schools team is “no different from any other experience.” The senior defenseman adds, “when you’re playing on the ice it’s not so different because we all work together to achieve. In school though, it’s not so cool because you don’t get to see all of your friends.” Clearly teammates are friends even if they don’t pass each other in school hallways everyday.

But does being in a tri-op give BBD an advantage over other teams? “Yes, definitely,” says Sullivan. “We have more talent to choose from with three schools.” BBD goalie Ryan Campbell also says yes. “We have more diversity with abilities and skills.”

Having more kids to choose from may give BBD more opportunities for talent, but should they be punished for coming together out of necessity? Keeping up a hockey program is becoming more and more difficult and the time when all three schools can afford to have their own team does not seem in the near future. Right now the cooperation is beneficial for BBD not because they are keeping up an impressive record of fourteen wins and only three losses, but because the teammates have a bond that surpasses town limits.

“I love it!” says Campbell with a big smile. So even though BBD faces some scrutiny from single school teams, it thrives on being a diverse force. And this Bethel-Brookfield-Danbury team is trying to make it all the way to the top this year by heading to SWCs and then straight on to the state tournament!

One thought on “Three Schools, One Team

  • March 12, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Becca: you certainly are correct in quoting me that “It’s all about cost”…as far as that goes, ice hockey is probably the most expensive sport to fund and to play…but there is one reason above all.

    Participation…or to put it simply, bodies to make up a team! Of the three schools involved, NONE have enough players to make up their own team. As an example…this years team, Danbury has the most at eleven, Brookfield with nine and Bethel with six. None of these teams have enough players to “go out on their own” and compete, because at the minimum you would need two full lines and two goalies! That would be twelve players and thats the barest minimum, not a number that you could compete in the SWC or state and win. And it’s not getting any easier in the future, while participation in youth leagues is good, in this area we only get between 5-8 new players per year and next year (this years junior class), we graduate seven players…so we are just about holding the status even!

    So it’s about numbers. FYI…BBD has to “reapply” to the CIAC every two years to continue this tri-op, so we do not have to do that again until the 2012-2013 season. Given that requirement, every year is a balancing act between have enough players and having too many. Why is that…because the CIAC rules say a “co-op/tri-op” cannot continue or be established if the schools that make up this group have more than 15 players from any one school. If that happens, that school would have to drop out on the tri-opt and field a team on it’s own.

    Consequences…twenty six players not being able to play (or having to get in to and pay for private school’s, such as Imacculate (also a co-op, with N. Fairfield) or Notre Dame-FF)! Also as you stated in the srticle, as a group we all lighten the financial “load” by spreading the cost among three municipalities and in our case, twenty five families. Still it is expensive to participate…the three towns do not cover the entire cost, so the parent organization must make up the difference…and thats NOT including the individual costs that each family absorbs!

    As an example: sticks (at well over $75/stick for the goalie’s), helmets ($40+) and skates ($250+)….and if your son/daughter is a goalie, well get ready for the really big $$.

    Goalies: Leg Pads $750-1500+, Shoulder/Arm Pads: $250+, Skates: $300+, Pants: $150+….and goalie sticks AVERAGE about $75 each !!

    Some “ballpark” examples of team costs…

    Practice ice time: $400/hr x 4 hr/week = $1600/week x 16 weeks = $25K+
    (add on possible 2 games per week = $1600/week for ice only!)

    Referee’s: 2/game x 2 hours = approx. $250/game.

    Transportation to away games: (this year 10), approx. $250/ride.

    So you can see, “the money” can add up fast !!

    To answer our critics…there is no way to possibly answer them, so we don’t bother, we just go out and play and do the best WE can !

    To end this, it’s been a GREAT season and we want to thank all the fans who came out to support us !!

    Good Luck to our senior’s: Justin Sullivan, Andrew Creaturo and Kyle Powers!

    Great article…thanks, Dad
    (or…Assist. Coach Costanzo BBD Ice-Cats Hockey)


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