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East Ridge girls hockey program split between Park and Woodbury

East Ridge High School won't have its own girls hockey team in its first two years under a plan passed by the District 833 School Board Thursday, May 21.

Instead, future East Ridge students currently in the Woodbury High School attendance area will play for the Woodbury team, and girls currently in Park High School's area will play for Park.

Two months ago, Park High School Activities Director Phil Kuemmel and Woodbury High School Activities Director John Soma proposed a plan to have East Ridge girls hockey players skate with Woodbury's team.

Kuemmel and Soma said the projected participation on the new school's team does not include a goalie. Also, a relatively low number of girls would be eligible to skate at the varsity level.

The proposal for final approval by the board was pulled from the March 19 agenda, after being presented at the March 5 board workshop, to allow for more discussion with parents, players and coaches, according to Kuemmel and Soma.

After meetings, it was still apparent there will not be enough varsity-level players to support three teams, so a new proposal was developed to present to the Minnesota State High School League that controls varsity and junior varsity play for all high school sports.

Players who will attend East Ridge next fall will skate with Woodbury if they currently live in Woodbury's attendance area. Skaters who are now in the Park attendance area will skate with the Park team.

Some parent-meeting participants contended that East Ridge could field its own team if more seventh- and eighth-graders could be moved up.

Although some eighth-graders with good skills are moved up to junior and varsity teams at Park and Woodbury, Soma and Kuemmel said the low number of East Ridge players would force the issue.

Girls might be moved up to play at the varsity level without the necessary skills and experience, Kuemmel said.

Parents support the cooperative model, activities directors said, which would be for two years. They are confident the three schools will have enough participants in the 2011-2012 school year.

In the first two years of girls' hockey in the early '90s, Park and Woodbury skated as a combined team wearing special uniforms with both school names and colors. But that will not be the case for East Ridge players.

New uniforms would cost $4,000 and only be used for two years.

Instead, special patches will be designed and sewn onto uniforms to indicate skaters are from East Ridge, Kuemmel said.

East Ridge assistant coaches will be added to both teams.

When the ice-time contracts were negotiated between the district and the Cottage Grove Arena two years ago, the district agreed that East Ridge boys and girls hockey teams would practice there and use the main rink as home ice for games.

With only the boys' team skating next winter, the girls' ice time will be sold. Assistant to the superintendent for facilities Mike Vogel said he doesn't expect a problem selling the time to another organization.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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