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Board votes to dissolve boys' hockey co-op

The Pequot Lakes School Board voted unanimously to dissolve the current boys’ hockey co-op agreement at the end of this school year, in hopes of giving the team a better chance at competing for a state title.

By dissolving the co-op, the team could potentially play in the A classification, which would put the team into competition with similar teams. Currently the team competes in the AA classification.

The Minnesota State High School League creates two classifications of play (A and AA) based on student population.

To compete in Class A, the combined population of the schools in the co-op needs to be in the lower 50 percent of all teams playing.

Currently Pequot Lakes’ co-op has perhaps the lowest population in Class AA.

The current co-op includes Pequot Lakes, Pine River-Backus (PR-B), Crosby-Ironton and Aitkin. Because PR-B schools has the fewest number of students playing on the team of all the schools in the co-op, that school would be removed when the co-op is re-formed with the other three schools.

Removing PR-B would most likely drop the population count of the co-op enough to allow the team to play in the A classification.

Once the cutoff for student population for classification is established next year, the team will look into bringing PR-B back into the co-op, if the cutoff allows. The co-op will continue with its current contract of all four schools until the end of the school year, when it expires.

The co-op could have been dissolved at the beginning of the year, had all schools unanimously made the decision. PR-B schools were not on board, and would not vote to voluntarily dissolve the co-op.

“We had a meeting last spring about dissolving and obviously we’re going to say no,” said PR-B activities director Randy Schwegel. “The idea is to give kids a chance to play.”

He said PR-B has two to three families with boys’ hockey players.

Brandon Andersen is a Pequot Lakes School Board member and Northern Lakes Youth Hockey Association (NLYHA) treasurer. NLYHA is the feeder program for the co-op. Andersen said that moving to the A classification would put the team into competition with teams of a comparable size and nature.

Some of the teams the co-op currently plays have tryouts of 100 students; they include Moorhead, Edina and Elk River. The Pequot co-op has about 25, Andersen said.

Andersen added that NLYHA’s board of directors unanimously voted to dissolve the co-op.

Schwegel still has hope that the co-op won’t be dissolved. He’s been in meetings with the state high school league, and said the league could choose a new scenario to count enrollment, perhaps based on gender or percentage of enrollment involved in the sport.

That could prevent PR-B from being forced to step aside.

“They want to see it dissolved, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Hopefully it doesn’t happen. Hopefully there’s some solution around it. For me, it’s about giving kids a chance to participate if they want to,” Schwegel said.

Andersen said those students from PR-B who still want to play boys’ hockey would still have the option by transferring to another school that is still in the co-op.