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Vikings, Purple Ghost hockey teams could merge again next season

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The Thousand Islands and Alexandria central school boards soon could vote on extending a merger agreement for their boys varsity hockey teams, having the former rivals join forces for another season.

While officials from the districts seem happy with the merged team’s accomplishment last season, reaching the Section 10, Division 1 championship, some Alexandria parents have expressed discontent over the way practices and coaching were handled.

“Personally, I’d rather see hockey in the Bay,” said Matthew Parker, Alexandria Bay, adding that almost every Alexandria hockey parent he approached wanted a separate team.

Last season, Alexandria parents had to travel to Clayton for all of the practices and most of the home games, and Clayton players seemed to get more attention, he said.

Alexandria Central School District Superintendent Robert B. Wagoner Jr. said practices and games were held mostly in Clayton last season only because the agreement last year to merge was made late. Alexandria was simply unable to secure rink time locally by the time a formal agreement was reached with the Thousand Islands Central School District, he said.

Things should be different next year, he said, as Alexandria would take the lead.

Both games and practices “would be split 50-50 between Alexandria Bay and Clayton,” as long as an agreement is made in a timely fashion, Mr. Wagoner said.

If possible, the Alexandria board hopes to vote on whether to again merge the Alexandria Purple Ghost and Thousand Islands Vikings into the “Islanders” next season at its meeting Tuesday, he said.

Without a merger, both schools’ hockey teams would be forced to run a fine line with few players and a tight budget.

Alexandria alone could have as many as 19 players next year, but nine of them would be freshmen.

“In a perfect world, we would have the resources to keep things as they were,” said Ronald J. Hochmuth, Alexandria junior high/high school principal. “Also, I personally do not believe in putting younger ninth-graders on the ice with seniors.”

He said the former rivals played well together and became more competitive as a result of the merger.

Speaking to players individually, Mr. Hochmuth said, he found most students just wanted to play hockey and a few told him they wanted to play with T.I. players if that made them more competitive.

Thousand Islands Superintendent Joseph A. Menard agreed.

“I also feel that the Islanders’ hockey was successful as noted by the team reaching the Section 10, Division I championship game,” he said, adding that the district already has budgeted to continue with the merger.

Mr. Menard said the number of hockey players in the north country, as well as nationwide, has been declining.

For the next hockey season, the Thousand Islands district expects to have 17 to 19 players — including students from the LaFargeville and General Brown school districts.

“Ice hockey as a rule is a very expensive sport, and the main reason is that districts need to purchase ice time,” Mr. Menard said. “I personally feel that the merger was successful, again, offering a program to our students while being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.”

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