Hockey is only a few months away and Windham Middle School and High School teams are stepping out on their own for the first time. No longer will they be known as the Western Maine Wings. They will be the Windham Eagles. The high school team will be made up of Windham and Raymond players who attend Windham High School.
It is not an RSU14 sanctioned sport, however, the athletic department does help with the varsity coach’s salary and with scheduling games. The rest is done by the hockey boosters, which is working through the process to become a 501 C-3. This will allow them to acquire corporate sponsorships and allow tax-free donations. They are hoping for sponsors who want their name associated with different aspects of the game to appearing on merchandise.
The high school team’s agreement with Sacopee Valley expired and now Windham hockey supports RSU14 students. The team practices and plays home games at USM with a 5 a.m. practice ice time slot. Last year they practiced only twice a week, this year the coaches saw the need for additional ice time, which makes up the majority of the team’s budget.
“It’s the recipe that allows them to be the most competitive. It’s a different approach. They need more ice time to be competitive,” said middle school director Steve Pock. “We’re moving in the right direction when we went from four days to five days.”
Windham High hockey plays teams at their same skill level like Bonny Eagle High School, Gorham High and Lakes Region High School. The team is 15 members and two goalies strong. The middle school team has 25 players.
At the middle school level, the team is a part of the Southern Maine Middle School Hockey League, an independent league not affiliated with the school department, like middle school football, said Pock. The middle school team also accepts players from other communities who do not have a team. The middle school team has fluctuated between having enough to make a team to not enough. This year, they are excited to have full A and B teams as well as volunteer coaches. This year Paul Jacques and Niels Mank will coach the A team. The boosters are still working on finding a B team coach. The middle school team also accepts fifth-graders.
“Now we’ve built the pipeline for the high school team,” said Pock.
Most of the middle school team plays for other hockey teams so the ice time is reduced at that level. They also play wherever they can get ice time, sometimes it’s as far away as the University of New England in Biddeford.
Hockey is not an inexpensive sport. To run the three teams it costs $26,000. A little over half is supported by the players. For the high school players it costs $1,220 each, but they only have to pay $645. At the middle school level, they pay $200 toward the cost of $350, said Pock, who is also the budget committee director.
The big expenses in the budget are for ice time and transportation. They also play for referees, game security and trainers.
The team is attempting to raise money to offset the cost to its athletes, but what they really would like from the community is fan support, said Pock. “Fans physically cheering them on in the stands,” he added.
Windham hockey is also looking for businesses willing to take sponsorships at tax-deductable rates.
For more information on the program, visit www.windhamicehockey.com and Windham High School Eagle Hockey on Facebook.