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50-50? Two Harbors and Silver Bay hockey teams to merge this fall

Beginning this fall, the Two Harbors and Silver Bay boys' hockey teams will be combined for two years, but not everyone is happy with the change.

The Lake Superior School District board voted Monday night to merge the two teams in a co-op agreement, stating the separate squads can't be sustained.

"There's just not enough kids to run both the varsity and the B squad in each town," School Board Chairman Dwight Moe told the News-Chronicle before its meeting Monday night at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay.

Moe said the low numbers at each school have resulted in athletes playing above the level of their age group before they're ready. That increases the risk of injury, he said.

Yet some athletes and parents oppose the decision, with the main source of disagreement the terms of the agreement rather than the co-op itself. Earlier this year, Silver Bay supporters proposed a 50-50 split of practices and games, with half held in Silver Bay and half in Two Harbors. In April, Two Harbors' parents offered a counterproposal of 75-25. But Silver Bay supporters stuck with their original split.

"Did anybody here go into their marriage without it being 50-50?" Mariners head girls hockey coach Mike Guzzo said during the hour-long debate. "If it ends up at 75-25 or 60-40, it's not 50-50. But I think if you want to get it off the ground, it's your obligation to the kids that are playing hockey in this school district to get them paired up, get them together, get them a chance to play."

On the other side was Agate varsity hockey player Garrett Aho, who brought a petition signed by 103 Two Harbors High School students.

"We don't want our academics to suffer due to late bus trips between practices and games," the petition read in part, continuing: "Seventy percent of the hockey players on the shore are from Two Harbors and yet they say a 50-50 split is fair? That's not really fair at all."

The board responded that if supporters wanted to combine the teams, board members would decide the co-op terms. And the decision wouldn't just affect hockey.

"In all reality (this will) come down the pike for every other sport and every other thing that we have going on in the district," said Board Member Cyndi Ryder of Two Harbors. "So it's going to be a matter of policy."

Moe said he wasn't surprised by the tension over the co-op.

"People are pretty passionate about their sports," he said. "Two Harbors and Silver Bay have been rivals forever ... (and) there are people that really don't want their kids running back and forth."

In other School Board business:

• Graduation requirement changes at William Kelley High School were tabled until June or July

• The Northern Lights Cooperative annual event will continue.