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HVCC's decision to disband hockey could have national implications

HVCC's decision to disband hockey could have national implications

Hudson Valley Community College hockey players coming into the program next fall will be one-and-don
HVCC's decision to disband hockey could have national implications
Members of the Hudson Valley Community College hockey team congratulate each other after a recent game at the McDonough Sports Complex.

Hudson Valley Community College does not send hockey players to the NHL — or even to Division I. Some of its players do continue their careers at Division III or II schools, or Division I club teams, but that’s it.

Regardless, HVCC hockey players coming into the program next fall will be one-and-done.

HVCC is disbanding its hockey program — which won the 2001 junior college national championship — after the 2016-17 season. The impact of the decision could have reverberations throughout college hockey, perhaps threatening the thinnest layer of the sport.

The college decided to cut the program in its 25th season after the number of teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association dropped from nine in 2014 to six in 2015, officials said. The bylaws of the NJCAA state that in any given sport, there needs to be a minimum of eight teams for competition. Hudson Valley officials said they are taking a proactive stance and ending their program before the NJCAA closes its doors.

“As a result of declining participation at the NJCAA level, Hudson Valley Community College will discontinue its sponsorship of ice hockey as a college-sanctioned sport, effective June 1, 2017,” Hudson Valley athletic director Kristan Pelletier said.

HVCC’s exit could be a self-fulfilling prophecy that hastens the demise of junior college hockey; NJCAA was looking to add schools to keep the sport at that level viable.

“Hudson Valley taking this step makes it more challenging for the other schools to continue to field teams,” said Union County College President Margaret McMenamin, an NJCAA representative. “It could compromise the potential for that sport remaining viable as an NJCAA competitive sport.”

The decision will make it difficult for the Vikings on the recruiting trail as they go into a final season. The good news is the Vikings need to fill only six roster spots, with 20 players slated to return for a final season at the two-year school.

“It’s going to be difficult,” said first-year player Tyler DeMarco of Windsor Locks, Conn. “We’re going to have to talk to a lot of players, because the players that come will only be here for one year.”

DeMarco and his teammates plan on helping head coach Matt Alvey and his staff in recruiting players.

“We all come from all over the East Coast,” DeMarco said. “All the players we know, we’re going to see if they want to come out.

“For [the coaches], I don’t know what they’re going to do. They’re going to have to talk players into it.”

Alvey is entering his 14th season as head coach.

“I’m taking the same approach that I always do,” Alvey said. “It’s still an opportunity to use as a stepping stone, educationally and hockey-wise.”

Every year, Alvey reaches out to 150-200 players throughout the recruiting process to get about 20 who commit to the college.

“Now I’m probably going to have to talk to more kids and get less of a response,” Alvey said. “It’s definitely going to be tough.”

The NJCAA has sponsored hockey since 1970, and is in uncharted territory in terms of the number of teams that are participating in the league. At its height in 1976-77, the

NJCAA had 33 schools that fielded a hockey team. Over time, this number has fluc­tuated — in 1981-82, the league dropped down to 14 teams; in the past 15 years there have been between eight and 11 teams, until this year.

There is a chance that the NJCAA could sustain hockey if it attracts schools to the league. If that happens, it’s not out of the question Hudson Valley revisits its hockey decision.

“I’m not closing a door to anything,” Hudson Valley President Andrew Matonak said. “If [the league] gets to 10 or 12, I wouldn’t be that defin­itive, but we would definitely take a look at it.”

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