Last winter, the Wahconah co-op hockey team made it to the Western Massachusetts Division III-A championship game. The team, which co-ops with Pittsfield and Taconic, will not get that opportunity this winter.
Wahconah athletic director Jared Shannon announced Monday that the school will not field a team this season.
“The primary factor is the fact that the MIAA and the MIAA COVID-19 Task Force, in addition to CBRSD and Berkshire County, are encouraging athletic participation to happen within regions or competitive ‘bubbles,’” Shannon wrote in an email.
In the message, Shannon said that the hope is the co-op team will play again in the 2021-22 school year.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Shannon said in an interview with The Eagle Monday night. “I know how much the kids really want to play for their schools. Obviously, it’s a co-op situation, but the Pittsfield, Taconic and Wahconah kids, generally speaking, have played together in youth hockey growing up as sort of a Central Berkshire group. This group of kids know each other really well.”
Wahconah, which won the 2014 Western Mass. Division III-A championship, was the third seed in the 2020 tournament, beating Belchertown and Amherst before dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to top-seeded Greenfield in the III-A championship game.
“Piggy backing on the success of last year, our team was pretty good. The kids played really hard. Coach [Matt] Risley has done a great job, bringing some real good energy and also just getting the kids to play really hard, and motivating the kids from the Pittsfield group and the Central Berkshire group to play hard,” said Shannon. “We were definitely looking forward to trying to capitalize on that.
“To not be able to offer that this year, that to me, was tough.”
In the letter, Shannon said that it may still be “some time” before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs comes out with its recommendations for youth and amateur sports in the winter season. Once the EEA comes out with its recommendations, then the MIAA’s COVID-19 Task Force, the Tournament Management Committee and the Board of Directors will have to approve plans for some sort of winter season.
Shannon said he has had two conversations with Central Berkshire Regional School District superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis, other administrators in the central office in Dalton, along with Wahconah principal Aaron Robb, “just to make sure we’re all thinking about this the right way.”
The Wahconah AD also said that making the decision now gives the athletes the opportunity to find some sort of club hockey program to participate in.
“We hope this will provide our hockey players an opportunity to proactively pursue opportunities to play club hockey this winter,” Shannon wrote, “should the hockey rinks be allowed to re-open and play is allowed to resume.”