Officials weigh options following dispute that could threaten high school hockey season

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High school administrators will meet Monday morning following a contract standoff between the Maine School Principals’ Association and on-ice game officials that could jeopardize the women’s and men’s hockey seasons this winter.

“We’re meeting in response to the letter that came out of the Maine Principals’ Association to try to figure out what next steps we can take to try to make sure we have a hockey season in 2022-23,” Gary said. Stevens. , the athletic director of Thornton Academy.

On Wednesday, the principals’ association informed member schools that the Maine chapter of the National Ice Hockey Officials Association had again rejected a three-year contract from the MPA, the agency that oversees high school sports in the state. . The contract, which called for hockey officials to receive a per-game raise from $78 last winter to $82 this school year (and up to $87.50 in 2024-25), was initially rejected by officials hockey in April.

The MPA recently asked the group of hockey officials to accept the one-year increase with a proposal to review the second and third year after this season. That offer was rejected by hockey officials on Tuesday. Hockey officials have said they want to be paid $90 per game for the 2022-23 season, a 15% increase from last season. It’s unclear what requests, if any, the officials group has made for subsequent seasons.

Hockey officials will not work MPA games without a contract, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation. There are less than 60 hockey game officials in the state, and they work not only for interscholastic games, but also for youth and college.

The letter from the MPA did not offer a solution to put the match officials back on the ice.

“If there were officials available to work at high school hockey games, the MPA Ice Hockey Committee is fully prepared to move forward with a season,” the letter read, adding later. that “the MPA Officials Advisory Committee has advised ice hockey officials that they will not open negotiations in the middle of a contract year.

Neither MPA executive director Mike Burnham nor Chris Parsons, president of the Maine chapter of the Ice Hockey Officials Group, could be reached for interviews.

With practices set to begin Nov. 7 for women’s hockey teams and Nov. 21 for men’s teams, coaches and school administrators are scrambling to find ways to preserve the season. This includes possibly playing a school run league without the sanction or support of the MPA.

Greely Athletic manager David Shapiro said as an “eternal optimist, I strongly believe we will be able to fix this and have an MPA sponsored boys and girls hockey season.”

Others aren’t so optimistic, especially with the season fast approaching.

Monday’s meeting will focus on determining what school administrators can and are willing to do in response to the impasse, Stevens said. Neither the PMA nor the officials group should be represented at the meeting.

“Can we as schools do something separately if MPA is unable to offer a season? And, if so, who is interested and, above all, who is the governance? Stevens said. “What we’re trying to figure out is what can we do, what are we allowed to do and where do we want to proceed from here?”

The discussion will likely include a review of the contingency plan presented by a group of coaches calling themselves Maine High School Hockey. His plan is to pay on-ice officials $90 per game and have a season modeled after MPA guidelines, using the regular season schedules already in place. The men’s and women’s leagues would be administered by a board of nine coaches.

“We don’t want to go rogue. We don’t want to be just another youth travel league,” said AJ Kavanaugh, the varsity boys coach at Mt. Ararat and the coaches liaison with the MPA Hockey Committee. “We want it to continue to be school athletics. It is absolutely unanimous among the coaches. No one wants to get rid of genuine team rules, academic eligibility, and coaching eligibility standards.

Maine High School Hockey’s proposal includes significant changes from the current MPA format.

Men’s hockey would be a division, separated into North and South regions. (Currently, men’s hockey has Class A and Class B, based on registration.) Instead of using healing points to determine playoff seeding, it would use a power ranking formula like this used in other states to accommodate the strength of the calendar. It is also proposed to hold a Super 8 tournament for the top men’s teams, which would use a best-of-three playoff format. Teams that do not qualify or do not want to participate in the Super 8 tournament will have their own men’s tournament.

Kavanaugh said some coaches fear that if the sport is not an official MPA sport, their schools may decide to withhold funding.

Stevens noted that other issues need to be addressed. What entity will ensure the governance of hockey if it is not the MPA? Could the MPA impose repercussions to form a separate league if a season has not been officially cancelled?

And if there is to be a new high school hockey league, an agreement would have to be in place with the game officials.

“Before the officials go on the ice, they have to have a deal, and from what I’m hearing, it has to cost $90 a game,” Kavanaugh said. Since schools had already budgeted $82 per official, Kavanaugh said increasing the rate to $90 would cost schools an additional $144 for nine home games.

Kavanaugh, who also coaches youth hockey, said he understands the negotiating positions of MPAs and game officials.

The MPA has also negotiated contracts with game officials in other sports, with only lacrosse officials not yet having an agreement with the principals’ association. At the end of the three-year contracts, nearly all sports officials would receive the same rate of $87.50 per varsity contest, regardless of sport. The hockey pay rate would increase by 12% over the three years. Other sports would see a significantly larger increase.

“I understand their position,” Kavanaugh said of the MPA. “If they go up (in price) with ice hockey, then they’re afraid to hear it from everyone, and across all sports, that would be a big hit for school budgets.”

Hockey game officials can make more money, often with less travel time, officiating non-interscholastic games.

Pee Wee games regularly pay $50 an hour, and officials often officiate back-to-back games. Typical arena time for a high school game is at least two and a half hours. Prep school and 16-and-under Tier 1 games often pay $140 per game. Kavanaugh said an official working on a Bowdoin College game earned $195.


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