A proposal drafted by Berkshire County high school athletic directors will eliminate one of the four remaining Hennessy League hockey programs and divide its players among two other teams.
The proposal, put together at an ADs' meeting in early June, would end the St. Joseph co-op hockey program. The program had been an agreement between St. Joe, Mount Greylock and McCann Tech high schools.
Under the proposal -- which will be presented to Berkshire County principals for final approval in September -- St. Joe will join the Taconic co-op with Taconic and Pittsfield, while Greylock and McCann players would join the Wahconah co-op team. Mount Everett's program would retain its South County co-op agreement.
The Crusader hockey team last won the league championship in 2009-10. St. Joe reached the Western Mass. Division III-A semifinal round in what looks to be its final season.
Crusader athletic director Jim Stimpson cited a number of factors in the decision, including lack of student interest at St. Joe and budget concerns.
"I had a lot of passion for that program. It was a tough decision to make," said Stimpson, also the Hennessy League's committee chair among the ADs. "The kids are kind of finding other things to do as well, and it's not what it used to be, unfortunately."
The proposal puts all four North County schools in the Warriors' hockey program. Drury and Hoosac Valley joined the co-op when Drury's program went under following the 2009-10 season.
Despite those additions, Wahconah was still hurting for players at the end of this past season, skating with just 10 players and a goalie in its Western Mass. III-A semifinal loss in March.
Greylock athletic director Lindsey von Holtz said the positive aspect of the move is that her Mounties would still have a place to play high school hockey.
"With St. Joe unable to host a team ... without going with Wahconah, four athletes would be unable to participate in hockey at the high school level," von Holtz said.
What's still in question is the status of the Hennessy League itself. A three-team league, the Big Three of Brockton, Durfee and New Bedford, already exists in Massachusetts.
Stimpson, a District G member of the MIAA Ice Hockey Committee, said the desire is to keep the Hennessy League together and add a number of independent games for each remaining team.
Stimpson added that the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference, or PVIAC, has agreed to help Berkshire County's athletic directors find independent games.
"We've got to talk to the MIAA," Stimpson said. "What they'll end up doing is getting new independent games as well. Wahconah will probably play their normal independent games, but they'll get some more independents."
To reach Matthew Sprague:
or (413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.