When St. Bernard’s High School closed last year, St. Paul Saints coach Ed Aguirre knew his hockey program didn’t have much time left.
A year, maybe. Two, tops.
“This was something that was looming,” Aguirre said on Wednesday, April 13, after learning from Concordia Academy (Roseville) athletic director Mike Aurich the Saints’ program was folding because of a lack of players. “This was something that was bound to happen.”
A cooperative program comprised of Concordia Academy, St. Agnes and St. Croix Lutheran, the Saints went 6-20-0 last season. They lost 9-0 to Spring Lake Park in the first round of the Section 4A playoffs.
Aguirre said he finished last season with 17 players on his roster, including eight seniors. The Saints, who played in the Tri-Metro Conference, didn’t have enough players to field a junior varsity squad.
“Our numbers had slowly declined over the last three years where we were running pretty tight,” said Aguirre, the Saints’ coach the last six season. “It had gotten to the point where there was no real replenishment coming.”
With no junior varsity squad and no youth hockey feeder system, there was no expectation the Saints would have enough bodies to field a team. For years, St. Bernard’s had supplied the bulk of the team’s players.
“When St. Bernard’s closed last year that was really another nail in the coffin,” Aguirre said. “That was a good school that attracted a lot of multi-sport athletes.”
Aguirre said, with the disbanding of the current Saints co-operative, discussions were being held about forming new partnerships. He said players attending Concordia Academy could be part of a potential merger with Andover-based Legacy Christian Academy. He said St. Agnes and St. Croix Academy could form a co-op with Minnehaha Academy.
Among the Saints’ top players from last season was Eric Madison, a sophomore forward who shared the team goal-scoring lead with 19. Madison, who also had 17 assists, attends Concordia Academy.
Aguirre, 50, said he would like to stay involved in coaching. He said he has applied for the opening at Minnehaha Academy.