How HS Hockey Started in Middleboro
Dec. 31, 2013
Back in the late 90s, a group of like-minded Middleboro parents whose sons and daughters were hockey players, got together and formed an organization for the sole reason to bring the sport of ice hockey to Middleboro High School. That organization was known as the Middleboro Ice Hockey Group (MIHG).
Hockey is a passionate game, a family game. Hockey families spend a lot of time in the car bonding, shuttling to and from arenas, sharing lunch or breakfast after weekend games. When the child gets to high school and there is not a hockey team to play for, the child loses a large part of the educational experience. MIHG’s sole purpose was to ensure such an opportunity was present at MHS. In turn, good students, who were hockey players, were less apt to turn to other schools that offered hockey, like many of the Catholic institutions.
Armed with a bold idea, MIHG met for months, formulated a plan, created a board of directors and in 1997, approached the school committee. MIHG’s plan was solid and the school committee listened. The big reason schools shun ice hockey is the cost of ice time, which can now be as high as $300 per hour. To a small varsity program, ice time alone for games and practices can cost $13-16K for the season. The Middleboro School Department, in an era of budget cutting, was in no position to incur that cost, so MIHG offered to pay that portion of the program.
With the idea of a partnership to contemplate, MIHG also offered to show the committee how a high school hockey program was run and the Middleboro Chiefs middle school team was born. MIHG, the Chiefs and their supporters raised funds, checked on student’s academic performances, even practiced before school. The school committee was impressed and the following Spring, they agreed to co-fund a high school hockey program with MIHG.
The first two years of MHS hockey was at the JV level, with a couple of varsity games mixed in. Facing seasoned varsity programs was not in the best interest of a fledgling high school hockey team. And the Patriot League, where MHS plays, comprises one of the best public high school hockey leagues around. As matter of fact, in 2007, Patriot League Members Duxbury, Hanover and Scituate were crowned Division I, II and III State Champions respectively. And that does not even include Hingham which played in the elite Division IA tournament that year. MIHG and MHS hockey had their work cut out.
As the program grew, the numbers grew as good athletes stayed at MHS and others transferred back from neighboring private schools. Between 2004-2008, MHS hockey even supported a JV team. The 2007-08 team, coming off a tournament year where the Sachems lost the first-ever MIAA State Tournament ice hockey game in a shootout, had depth never seen before. With ten seniors, seven juniors and many solid underclassmen, the team was destined to compete for the league title and go deep in the tournament. However, coupled with a tough schedule, injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, the team missed the playoffs by a single point. The team had tied a tough Scituate team twice that year, only to see the Sailors go on to win another Division III State Championship.
The 2008-09 squad also had great expectations that never materialized in the tough Patriot League. Of the seven seniors on that team, six went on to college and one joined the Marine Corps. Truth being told, nearly all of those seven seniors would not have attended MHS had there not been a hockey program.
Recently, MHS hockey has had great success playing away from the Patriot League as an independent, but the numbers have dwindled. In the tough sport of hockey, injury and illness became a big factor, and a D-III varsity program needs about 17-22 players to sustain. The current MHS squad had the skill, but not the depth. So with the support of current MHS Athletic Director Mike Perry, they formed a one-year cooperative (combined) team with Hull High School. Hull and Middleboro? Odd bedfellows for sure, but these are hockey players… they make it work, as the alternative is unacceptable.
The sweet part of this story is that MHS hockey continues into its 15th year and the Sachems get to participate in the South Shore League, as Hull is a member. The SSL is a good fit for MHS hockey and the Sachems are off to a great start. A recent 2-0 win over perennial SSL champ Norwell is a good indicator of that! Look for Hull-Middleboro to compete for the SSL title and a berth in the State Tournament this year.
Congratulations MIHG and MHS Hockey on your 15th year anniversary! The program, the school and the community is worth all the effort.
Special thanks go to the following former members of MIHG, as without you, this program would not exist today.
Howie Ladd (still Chiefs head coach!)
And thanks to the current MIHG Board for donating their time and effort: