High School Hockey Cooperative to End After Stellar Season

May 22, 2017 07:57 PM

A high school hockey team that saw great success at the state high school hockey tournament this year will soon be no more.

It was a great season for the Monticello-Annandale-Maple Lake hockey team, or MAML, as it's known.


The team earned a state tournament berth, and nearly a championship over class A powerhouse Hermantown.

"They had a lot of fun, it was a great experience for our kids and the whole co-op," says Annandale Superintendent Steve Niklaus. 

But within months of riding that wave, a big change is on the way: MAML will soon no longer include Annandale. That's because the cooperative's growing combined enrollment threatens to push it into Class AA. 

"That was pretty tough for our hockey community here," Niklaus said.

For the town of 3,200 people, with one outdoor hockey rink, the cooperative was huge.

"We don't have an arena, so if you don't have a local arena, having a local hockey program is just about impossible," Niklaus said.

School enrollment numbers determine which teams each school plays.

Monticello, the largest school in the cooperative, has done well playing at the class A level and wants to stay there.

But combining enrollment numbers with Annandale pushes them over the class A enrollment cutoff by 100 to 150 students and into class AA, competing against larger schools with bigger programs.

"It's what's best for our Monticello kids right now, to move on and to stay in class A hockey," Monticello Activities Director Gary Revenig said.

Revenig says the MAML co-op has competed at the AA level in the past, and it never went well.

Revenig said he went to the Minnesota State High School League with an appeal to continue to play in class A with Annandale and Maple Lake, but that the league said no.

"I think 90 schools appealed and about 10 percent were granted their appeal to play (in class A versus class AA) without dissolving," Revenig said. "The rest of us have to dissolve our co-ops or play in the class we were placed in, and I respect the high school league for that decision." 

Said Niklaus: "You can blame them because you feel bad about it, but you can't blame them for their motives in looking out for their kids." 

The Annandale School Board will vote whether to dissolve the co-op Monday night, but already the district has been looking for another host.

"There's a sense of urgency that people would like to know there is a future in hockey," Niklaus said. 

Annandale officials have sent letters to a couple of area districts, hoping to form a new cooperative. They have until the 2017-18 hockey season starts to find a new partnership.

The Minnesota State High School League says sports co-ops are not new. They've been around since the early 1970's when there were 50; today there are more than 1,800 among all sports across the state.


Jessica Miles

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