Turners co-op hockey folds; players may join Greenfield

  • Cam Barnes of South Deerfield and his Turners Falls teammates will be looking for a team next season. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/21/2017 10:46:30 PM

The Turners Falls High School hockey team will not be lacing up its skates next year.

Turners Falls officially ended its four-school cooperative hockey team following this season.

“We officially filed to not continue our cooperative,” Turners Falls athletic director Adam Graves said. “We consulted with the three other schools and no one was interested in running the cooperative.”

The team was a cooperative that involved Turners Falls, Frontier Regional School, Pioneer Valley Regional School and Franklin County Technical School. Mohawk Trail Regional High School had previously been part of the coop before that partnership ended after the 2014-15 season.

The Turners Falls hockey team officially began as a varsity program in 2001-02 after a brief stint as a club team. Frontier Regional School was initially pegged as the host school, but the proposal was voted down by the South Deerfield school. Turners Falls wound up stepping in to serve as the host school, a role it has maintained ever since.

This past season, only three players on the team actually were Turners Falls students and the idea was floated about another school taking over as the host school but none came forward. Head coach Darren Lenois, who just completed his second year with the team, was upset to hear about the decision.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “The last couple of years, the kids have worked very hard. We felt like next year would be our year. We thought we would have had a very good shot at making the tournament.”

The past two years have not been kind to Turners Falls, which has endured back-to-back one-win seasons, going 1-19-0 this past winter, and 1-17-2 two years ago. Turners Falls had not qualified for the WMass Tournament since the 2012-13 season, and has gone 13-58-6 since that time.

Although Turners Falls served as the host school, all the funding for the team came through the Parents Booster Club. The Boosters paid for everything from ice time and officials fees, to busing. Players paid a users-fee of $800 per season, and the Boosters fundraised the remaining money.

“They worked really hard, they raised all the money and took care of everything,” Graves said of the Boosters. “They paid for everything. They did a really great job.”

Another potential issue that the team was going to run into this season was the logjam building up at Eaglebrook’s ice rink. Turners Falls split its practice time at both Collins-Moylan Arena in Greenfield, and at Eaglebrook. With Deerfield Academy building a new rink, the Big Green hockey teams will be using Eaglebrook, and Graves said Turners Falls was not guaranteed ice time.

There could be a light at the end of the tunnel for the four schools. Greenfield High School, which currently has a cooperative hockey team with Mahar Regional School and Smith Academy, has taken the initial steps to include the four schools that made up the Turners Falls team into its cooperative.

“Greenfield would like to absorb those kids in order to give those kids an opportunity to play hockey,” Greenfield athletic director Mike Kuchieski said.

There is no current timeline on when that could happen, but the cooperative would have to be approved through both the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Association, as well as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. The MIAA rules state that the cooperative must be agreed upon six months prior to the start of the season, which means a decision should be known by the beginning of June.

Lenois said he hopes the cooperative with Greenfield does get approved, because he just wants his players, many of whom were underclassmen, to have an opportunity to play hockey.

“My main focus now is making sure all these kids have a place to play,” Lenois concluded. “If this doesn’t go through, though, then what happens?”

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