SAYREVILLE – A potential ice hockey program in the Sayreville School District is receiving support from parents.
Residents voiced their support of the program, which currently does not exist in the district, at a Board of Education meeting on July 18.
The support from residents came after a board discussion of the potential program at a June 13 meeting. Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe informed the board that he had been contacted by parents about creating an ice hockey program, and that Sayreville could partner with the neighboring Old Bridge School District, allowing Sayreville students to join Old Bridge’s team.
According to Labbe, the cost of the ice hockey program would be between $15,000 and $20,000 annually and at least 10 Sayreville students would have to participate in the program in order to partner with Old Bridge.
The possibility of having an ice hockey program was a subject of debate for board members at the June 13 meeting. Some members supported it, while others believed programs such as volleyball were more desired in the district, and there were members who felt the money for the program would be better allocated towards academics.
Resident Margaret Rocca, who had voiced support for the program at the June 13 meeting, returned on July 18, and was joined by other parents in advocating for ice hockey in Sayreville.
Rocca said at least 12 parents are in support of the program after being asked by the board.
Rich Belotti, who is a coach of a peewee ice hockey team in Woodbridge and has sons who play hockey, acknowledged the high costs of the program, but said parents would help pay for the costs.
“Cost is not an issue for hockey parents,” Belotti said. “In Metuchen, they have a co-op with three schools: Edison [High School], J.P. Stevens [in Edison] and Metuchen [High School]. There is a parent association between the three schools and they raised $35,000 to handle all costs.”
Insurance coverage was a potential issue raised at the June 13 meeting. Cited as a cause of concern was Mike Nichols, a hockey player from Monroe Township High School who broke his neck and was paralyzed after being checked during a game.
In response, Belotti stated on July 18 that in the seven years he was involved with hockey, he only saw one injury in New Jersey similar to the one the Monroe player suffered.
“That’s not a common injury,” Belotti said. “It’s a shame what happened to [Nichols], but it’s not something that happens [often]. As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen any major injuries to anyone.”
Also in support of the potential ice hockey program were residents Kerri Willson and Michelle Hagman, who both said they were considering relocating to another district with an ice hockey program.
“I have twins who are heading into [Samsel] Upper Elementary School and a younger son who is going into third grade, and all three have played ice hockey,” Willson said. “This is something that we’re really passionate about, having the opportunity to play ice hockey. We as a family have considered relocating to a town that has a hockey team. We have considered going to Old Bridge, Manalapan or Marlboro, these other school districts that do have teams so that my kids will have the ability to play when they’re in high school.”
“[My son] is 12 years old, he’s a goalie [and] he’s been playing hockey since he’s been 5,” Hagman said. “It’s the only thing he wants to do. We’re going into the seventh grade and the Mater Dei Seraphs [in Middletown] are interested, St. Joseph [in Metuchen] is interested, but I want him to play here. This is home for us. We want to be Bombers. We don’t want to be Seraphs, but I will because my kid would rather quit high school than quit hockey.”
Contact Matthew Sockol at firstname.lastname@example.org.