Hancock dissolves hockey cooperative with Lake Linden
HANCOCK — In a 4-2 vote the Hancock School Board on Monday dissolved the varsity hockey cooperative with Lake Linden.
The primary reason for the dissolution, said Board President Dale Kero, was in response to what he referred to as the silent majority.
“We hear from all the constituents,” he said. “The silent majority, this year, has complained ‘What about the Hancock kids? What about the Hancock kids?’ And we listened to them. That’s when we started this discussion.”
During the public comment period of the meeting, the board faced unanimous opposition to the resolution from hockey players, Hancock High School hockey coaches, Lake Linden and Hancock parents.
Annette Tchida was supported by many for her comments. She said that when she attended Hancock High School, the school had a much higher enrollment. The cooperative made playing on the varsity team competitive; if Hancock students wanted to play varsity over a student from Lake Linden, they had to work hard to earn that spot. Life works that way, she said.
Kero said that the cooperative resolution was placed on the agenda not so much to vote to dissolve it as to bring it up for discussion.
Trustee Rod Paavola questioned the reasoning behind the timing of the resolution and said there should be more discussion on the topic.
“My other concern is that Chris Salani (Hancock’s athletic director) is not here,” he said, “and if you look at his hockey co-op considerations, he has current roster prospects for 2023-24.”
Paavola continued, that the board has gone along this route before, and he does not see why the board is “turning the clock back” on this cooperative and not on others.
The reason for the timing of the subject at this point, said Trustee Randy Heinonen, is a courtesy to Lake Linden.
“We could have dragged our feet on this until September,” he said, “and then there is no option for any Lake Linden kid to play anywhere. We didn’t want to do that.”
An audience member, who did not identify himself, asserted that giving students an opportunity to participate is important, but that the team may be affected for allowing players onto the varsity team who are not experienced or skilled enough to play varsity.
“Are you willing to play the kids who are not ready to play varsity, because you don’t have the numbers, do you throw an athlete, who’s not ready, on that varsity squad, because you’re trying to fill an entire squad, the cost will be catastrophic to a young student who is not ready to be there.”
Additionally, he said, currently downstate high schools are coming to the U.P. to play Copper Country teams. Putting students on the varsity squad who are not ready could risk the standing of the team, and Hancock could be stuck having to travel downstate to play those teams. The Hancock School District cannot afford to pay the costs to travel frequently like those of the larger downstate schools.
The Hancock hockey team stands 16 in Michigan Division 3 ranking and 35 among all teams for the 2022-23 season.
The question was raised why no one who supports the dissolution of the co-op was in attendance to voice their opinions.
Heinonen replied that in the seven years he has sat on the board, when a contentious issue arises, all those coming think they are getting the short end of the stick, so they will attend a meeting to have their voices heard.
“Which is great,” he said. “It’s good that you’re here. But the people on the other end of this think, ‘Why am I going to go there and scream and yell and state my piece?'”
The scenario occurs periodically, he said.
“That’s why Dale calls it the ‘silent majority,'” Heinonen said. “Because we hear through emails, we hear through complaints, and there are those people out there.”
Heinonen said he agrees with the arguments presented by the audience, and that the discussion is difficult.
“But as board members sitting here,” he said, “I think we have to look at things holistically. We can’t look narrowly at it, and my view is that a board member has to do what’s right for the kids and families in Hancock. That’s how I feel about it.”
Trustee Michael Lancour supported Paavola’s opinion, saying he would never favor dissolving the co-op unless there is excess school enrollment.
“I played football with a co-op for seven years,” he said, “and I enjoyed playing with the co-op; it’s fun being competitive. I don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t keep it.”
Lancour said that when he played football, athletes from Jeffers were selected to play varsity over him, and he was not hurt over it.
“He was better than me,” he said. “He played on varsity. It kept us more competitive. I stayed on JV and I don’t see a reason to get rid of it at all.”
Trustee Catherine Jordan said that before she joined the board she wondered about the co-ops.
“Students can always exercise school-of-choice to play athletics,” she said, “and I always feel that we should ‘take care of our own,’ but I appreciate the comments about the competitiveness.”
She said she had not thought about that aspect of the issue.
Kero said that in discussions with Chris Salani, there are enough Hancock High School students to field a varsity hockey team through 2025-26.
Kero then asked if the vote should be tabled. Lancour and Jordan both responded that further discussion would not change anyone’s mind on the subject.