Ice hockey in the Boulder Valley School District will look a bit different this year.
At the end of the last winter sports season, BVSD made the difficult decision to cut the program at Centaurus — which had existed for four years and just two at the varsity level — and combine it with the program at Monarch. In doing so, it created a junior varsity program to accommodate the extra influx of players in the area.
The decision came as a surprise to parents of players within the Centaurus program, who say they received a letter after it had been made.
“From my perspective, we got an email from the district announcing the dissolution of the Centaurus team with not much explanation,” said Jenny Nunemacher, whose son from Nederland High School played at Centaurus. “It was shocking. In fact, the coach was also blindsided. Nobody was given a chance to give input, to suggest maybe other solutions.”
The district, however, said the decision boiled down to statistics. Of the 20 seniors that graduated from both BVSD teams last year, 10 hailed from schools in surrounding districts: St. Vrain, Adams 12 and 27J (Brighton). Of the 33 that were eligible to return, 12 came in from outside BVSD.
The judgment had been evaluated and discussed for months, as district officials and Centaurus and Monarch officials alike monitored how the two teams competed through their schedules.
“This was a decision that was made at the district level,” BVSD director of athletics and activities Harry Waterman said. “It went from admins in the buildings and also from district administration. Really, it was more around numbers than it was around opinions. This really was a determination of what’s best for BVSD and students. Students and parents are obviously disappointed and would love to see it continue, but it wasn’t about just an opinion, it was about the facts, the data of what was best for BVSD.
“Putting our programs together into one, it’s still giving the same number of opportunities. There are still 52 slots, there’s just going to be a JV and varsity program instead of two varsity programs. If you’re looking at numbers and success of the program, that program (Centaurus) certainly did struggle in 5A. Of their (eight) wins last year, two of them were against 5A opponents, one with a 2-17 record that they split with. Playing at the 5A level is a difficult task to do and to compete. In the hockey world, varsity hockey at 5A is a pretty high level of play.”
Monarch finished its season 14-5-1.
In response to the district’s letter, parents sent their own list of concerns and solutions, which included a coaching change, a new practice venue and a new host school. None of the players on the team actually attended Centaurus.
They argued that while Centaurus didn’t have a CHSAA-sanctioned JV team, far more players would be affected due to an unsanctioned, club “feeder program” hosted by the local YMCA. This year’s numbers portray a different story.
“I don’t think there were a ton of kids that tried out from Centaurus,” Monarch head coach Jimmy Dexter said. “We only ended up cutting one kid, including varsity and JV, which is huge. It’s not like we had 300 kids and we were only taking 50. I think it worked out really well. Both teams are off to a good start. I think the JV team’s 3-1 and we’re 2-0 so far.”
One former Centaurus player, Julian Zerwekh Reardon, made Monarch’s varsity team this year. The district said the idea of a lone host school isn’t set in stone for the next few years. It’s very much up for debate if more kids come out for Monarch’s varsity and JV teams in the future.
“As we move forward, we will also continue to reevaluate this program,” Waterman said. “If we find that there are an abundance of kids that are trying out, both of the programs are competing and doing very well and there appears to be a lot more athletes out there that could potentially grow us into another team in the future, we’re going to continue to evaluate that. But the only way to know that is to see how the program, especially the second level, the JV program, grows at Monarch. That will help us tremendously to decide in the future if we were able to grow another program and bring one back down the road.”