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Minnesota High School Coaches Barnstorm New Proposal

By Pete Waggoner, 02/20/09, 7:06AM CST


Hopkins, Minnesota


With a big decision on the plate of the Minnesota State High School League, the boys hockey coaches association has put on an impressive fore-check on as they work to solve a potential an issue that confronts all school districts. On the table is the potential to cut the number of games and meets in all sports except football in an effort to save money in operating expenses due to faltering school budgets.


Appearing on WCCO's “Sports to the Max”, a number of coaches from the executive committee shared their solutions to the current proposal that calls for cutting games from the current number of 25 games of hockey to 22 and it has even been suggested as low as 20 games. Fox 9 News reporter Rob Olson ran a story featuring the coaches association and their proposal, and and article appeared inr the Minneapolis StarTribune by Dean Spiros. The radio appearance, news story and StarTribune article can be viewed from this site.


Heads up play


Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Ken Pauly was heads up when he emailed The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Dean Spiros the other day in addressing the run-away-train that is a proposal on the table that looks to reduce games as an answer from requests of local Super Intendants to the Minnesota High School League looking to cut costs due to the current economy.


The hearing will be held this upcoming March 2nd by the High School League that proposes to reduce games in every sport but football. Pauly, who is a member of the executive committee on the Boys High School Hockey Coaches Association put forth a progressive plan designed by the coaches association that makes sense and offers a solution to a current issue.


Pauly pointed out that on a typical day, his Red Knights may lose about $75 on a game day that may be a conference hockey game. When “big” games featuring Pauly's Red Knights are played at the St. Louis Park Rec Center they earn up to $3000 on a game day. The majority of these high profile contests are non-conference games against teams such as Edina, Minnetonka, and Holy Angels. Should three dates be slashed making the game dates idle, there will be no big pay days of $2000-$3000 per game while the cost for practice ice that would be used is $400, instead making those three dates a net loss. That of course, is with no incoming revenue.


Increased media coverage taking a hold; Elite League making impact


With the way high school hockey has been promoted and marketed by MyFoxHockey.com, FSN, MnHockeyHub.com, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Cable Channel 12, and other media outlets, the level of interest has increased and the attendance has increased, not to mention due to the fantastic level of play, the boys High School Hockey tournament continues to set attendance records each year and is by far the largest grossing tournament in Minnesota High School Sports. According to some local arena managers, the past two seasons have experienced increased ticket sales and increased attendance have been noticeable as they have attributed to the increased media exposure and quality of play.


The fact remains that in 2004, a number of players left for rival leagues. Since then, the advent of the High School Elite League has stunted the exodus and the numbers have diminished from single digits to 12 players a year leaving for other teams. Loose open enrollment rules allowed for players to move from school to school in that era that led to traditionally strong programs now looking at a weakened high school program across the board.


That has changed of late, since many high end players have stayed put in High School hockey, mainly due to the Elite League, education from local professional scouts, and open enrollment restrictions that have taken hold.


Reduction of games may not have as positive impact as other solutions


Granted, we are in extraordinary economic times as school districts around the State will be charged with making tough decisions.


As outlined by the coaches association, schools will lose an opportunity to earn revenue for their respective programs by cutting games. Instead of complaining about it, the already well organized Minnesota High School Hockey Boys Coaches Association has developed a solution that makes sense.


The coaches association suggested first to limit the number of scrimmages between two programs and second, impose a black-out period over the winter break that will not allow teams to play or practice. On point number one, many may not be aware that teams schedule practices that include buses to the games and referees. There is no incoming revenue to offset the scrimmages, meaning transportation costs and referees add to a larger bottom line cost including ice-time. When coupled with point number two or the black out period, the cost savings would encompass the entire State while maintaining the revenue that is tied directly into the quality of play.


It is safe to say that it was a battle to earn 25 games for the schedule and even safer to say that a common criticism of Minnesota High School Hockey, under a 20 game schedule was not enough to compete with other leagues around the country. While advocates for more games will not be heard anytime soon, a level of comfort has been gained with the 25 game schedule coupled with the Elite League.


One can believe that the goal of the High School League is not to take away opportunities from kids and the proposal outlined in the various media outlets by the coaches is a step forward and a progressive step to maintain opportunities for kids. IN fact, they have a proposal that ultimately will save more money than a simple cut back in games.


Minnesota High School hockey is one of the top three high school sports in the entire nation. While it is not the only sport in Minnesota, it would be a good idea for the other sports to follow the progressive lead of the hockey coaches association and help develop solutions to the current issues that challenge our schools.