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Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association reaffirms decision to end pairing

The Two Harbors Youth Hockey Association (THYHA) Board of Directors recently informed the Silver Bay Blue Line Club it stands by its decision to end cooperative teams between the two clubs.

In April, members of the Blue Line Club Board were informed THYHA had decided to end the partnership begun in the 2013-14 season to cooperate on three teams as the North Shore Storm: a bantam team for boys ages 13-14; a peewee team for boys ages 11-12; and a 12 and under girls team.

The THYHA Board spent significant time over the winter studying the feasibility of ending the partnership and surveying parents regarding their support of a Two Harbors-only team.

Jesse Lundgren, THYHA Board member and hockey director, told the News-Chronicle in May that the Board and Two Harbors coaches were overwhelmingly in favor of ending the partnership and a majority of parents supported the move.

During a subsequent meeting May 14 in Two Harbors, a number of Blue Line Club members, residents and one THYHA player expressed concerns ranging from a competitive disadvantage from teams, economic reasons and even friendships forged as a result of the pairing.

At the conclusion of that meeting, THYHA Board President Rick Hogenson said the “door is open” to a new agreement. He also said he preferred to meet one-on-one with individuals to discuss the decision instead of debating the issue in a public forum.

Following the meeting, Hogenson told the News-Chronicle about his willingness to meet with individuals concerned about the decision in late May, and said Lundgren was trying to arrange a meeting between the two boards.

On June 13, however, Blue Line Club Board members received a document from the THYHA Board listing the Boards’ beliefs about hockey and how Blue Line Club players could still join Two Harbors teams. Players would pay registration fees to their home club. Any additional cost for playing with THYHA would be reimbursed to those players’ families in the form of a gas card to offset travel costs.

The document went on to say that all mandatory combined practice as well as all games would take place at Lake County Arena in Two Harbors. In the past, practices and games were split between Lake County Arena and Rukavina Arena in Silver Bay.

Lundgren said in a separate email to Blue Line Club Board members that in 2018-19, the Bantam and Peewee teams would be wearing Two Harbors jerseys and would compete as “Two Harbors Area,” and that the 12U girls team will make the same move in 2019-20.

Hogenson and Lundgren declined to comment for the News-Chronicle, but Hogenson said the THYHA Board decision was unanimous and he emailed a statement on behalf of the THYHA Board.

The statement said the Board elected to not meet with individuals or the Blue Line Club Board, but instead sent a “communication about the core beliefs” of THYHA and what the association could do for players outside its association boundaries.

“It was never the intent of THYHA to negotiate a new pairing agreement,” the statement read. “Instead, the communication was sent and meant to show a willingness to listen and hear new ideas for teams having players from outside our association boundaries.”

Blue Line Club Board member Wade LeBlanc said some of the stated reasons for ending the partnership included a lack of communication on the part of Blue Line Club members and coaches with THYHA. LeBlanc said multiple attempts at communication, including text, email and phone calls, went unanswered by both Lundgren and Hogenson. Other requests for individual meetings went unanswered.

LeBlanc said he is disheartened by the choices made by the THYHA Board and hopes the decision doesn’t permanently damage hockey on the North Shore.

“They’ve made it pretty clear that they are going to play on their own,” LeBlanc said. “(Hogenson) said he would talk to anyone one-on-one and he suggested the boards get together … It’s a shame and I guess we’re going to be done with it and we’re going to move on, but I just hope it works out for the kids.”

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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