Hudson Valley Community College has officially made the decision to discontinue its hockey program after the 2017 season. It won’t affect any current players, but the decision has cast a dark cloud on a once national renown program. The team has been a part of the college since 1991 and won a National Championship during the height of its existence in 2001.
“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. Our current student-athletes will have full support of our Athletic Department and the opportunity to compete throughout the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, pending continued NJCAA sponsorship of the sport,” said Hudson Valley athletic director Kristin Pelletier in a statement she released to the Hudson Valley Campus Chronicle.
There are currently six teams that play ice hockey in the NJCAA, which is two below the minimum of eight required for competition. The school held a board meeting late in September where they came to the decision to get rid of hockey. The administration was fearful that the NJCAA would close its doors on hockey without warning and they wanted to do it on their own terms.
The attendance of the meeting has not yet been released, but one person that was not invited was head hockey coach Matt Alvey.
“I wasn’t involved in any of the discussions about ending the program,” said Alvey. Alvey was only told after the decision was made. “[Pelletier] said that because there was not that many teams left in the NJCAA they were thinking NJCAA may drop hockey all in all.” At this point, the NJCAA has not reached a decision on dropping hockey.
Alvey is heading into his thirteenth season as the head coach of the hockey team. He was named region three coach of the year for the 2013-14 season. He has led his team to four national tournament appearances and will be looking for work after the 2017 season.
“I was disappointed. This is my 14th season here. We have a hockey rink on campus and I always thought there would be a hockey team here,” said Alvey, in reaction to the decision. “Us, tennis and bowling are a couple of the programs that have won a national championship. It’s a bit disappointing to hear that the school is going to shut down hockey.”
Alvey has a background in physical education and is looking to find a teaching or coaching job somewhere in the area. “I’m hoping to be able to continue coaching somewhere somehow, but I have a teaching degree to so I’m hopefully going to find a teaching job after Hudson Valley.”
The decision is not just affecting things around campus. It’s shaking the league up as a whole as other school are now forced to make decisions on what they want to do with their hockey programs.
“Hudson Valley taking this step makes it more challenging for other schools to continue to fill teams,” said NJCAA Northeast District Presidential Representative Margaret McMenamin. “It could compromise the potential for that sport remaining viable as an NJCAA competitive sport. I’m sorry to hear it.”
There are only three other teams in the region that currently field a hockey team. With Hudson Valley backing out, it might force other schools to do the same.
“We have not made a decision regarding hockey at MVCC. Probably the most important factor will be if the NJCAA continues to offer it as a certified sport,” said Gary Broadhurst, associate dean of athletics at Mohawk Valley Community College. Mohawk is one of three teams, including Erie and SUNY Broome, that play in region three with Hudson Valley and will have one less opponent after the 2017 season.
At its height, the NJCAA fielded 33 teams. This was in the 76-77 season and has fallen ever since. By 2000, the field dropped to 11 teams. One of the main reasons was the cost of maintaining a hockey program. Monroe Community College won the NJCAA National Championship in the 2011-12 season and decided to disband their hockey program just two years later.
“Dropping hockey at Monroe Community College was an extremely difficult decision for our administration to make,” said Monroe’s athletic director Dudley Bailey. “As we all know, running a hockey program is an extremely expensive venture. Every year, our costs continued to rise. We realized that a decision needed to be made about the future of the program.”
On the other hand, Hudson Valley’s reasoning for their decision was not a financial one. They are in a situation where they can afford a hockey team, yet they are still pulling the plug on the program, even while the NJCAA is actively recruiting other schools to join their hockey league to prevent the league from folding.
“The NJCAA has reached out to our member colleges on behalf of the sport, but unfortunately the economic climate is not conducive to increasing sports on many college campuses at this time,” said Mary Ellen Leicht, NJCAA executive director.
The NJCAA doesn’t want to close its doors on hockey altogether, but the Hudson Valley decision is making it tough on them and participating schools to continue the longevity of their programs.
In 2014, the NJCAA decided at its yearly Executive Committee meeting that they would operate below the minimum of eight teams required for competition for at least two more years. This was before the decision was made by HVCC, which sends the league to five teams.
Even though the program will be running through the 2017 season, it won’t be able to function at maximum capacity for the next couple seasons. With no future beyond a couple more years, Matt Alvey and his coaching staff have the tough task of recruiting players to come and play for the school for just one year.
“It’s going to make my recruiting much tougher to recruit a for a year,” said Alvey. Right now more than half of the roster are from over two hours away and a student who wants to play hockey at Hudson Valley might not want to relocate for just one year and then start at a new school all over again. It doesn’t directly affect current players on the roster, since they will be gone after the rink melts the ice.
Hunter Craig is a freshman and a first year player on the hockey team. He’s from Saco, ME and was also considering two other schools. “It’s a good campus, coach Alvey is a good guy, and the other coaches here are good,” said Craig. “I fell in love when I came for a tour. It’s a great school.”
Craig and 22 others will be the last recruiting class for the hockey team that will be able to use all of their junior college eligibility at Hudson Valley. So even though the decision was made to close its doors in two years, it has already made it difficult to operate in the present.