Last week, RJ Roder called me out in a letter to the editor because I mentioned that boys hockey has a pattern of losing. I understand Roder’s passion for hockey. My kids also played it, among other sports. Many of our friends are parents we met from having kids on the same teams, and we continue to get together several times a year.
At the same time, it’s worth clarifying several statements he made. First, I did not compare professional to high school sports. I wrote, I thought quite clearly, that the idea of success breeding success is evident in both pro and high school sports. I also provided examples to back that up. If someone wants to criticize me, that’s fine, but at least criticize what I actually write instead of inferring things that aren’t there.
Roder pointed out that youth hockey teams are successful. That’s not new. Youth teams have routinely been competitive, but that success has not translated to the varsity, which is the team I referred to in my column. And that’s the problem. If players can be competitive at every level until they get to high school, it’s certainly worth examining what the issue is. If it’s not the players and it’s not the new facilities, that definitely narrows down the problem.
Roder’s notion that we need to wait 10 years to measure the success of the program made me laugh out loud. While he’s correct that we’ve had a second sheet of ice in Shakopee for only a couple years, teams have regularly used the ice and dryland facilities at the Dakotah Ice Center in Prior Lake. I’m not saying it was a good or bad idea financially, but let’s be honest, teams did use a second sheet of ice for many years before the community center was expanded.
The girls hockey program was in the same situation. I don’t think the girls varsity team would say we need to wait a decade to measure success — they’re successful now, having finished with an overall winning record and an impressive 12-6 record in the South Suburban Conference. That pretty much shoots down the argument that a program needs 10 years to “catch up.”
I realize that stats don’t tell a complete story about a team and don’t measure every aspect of a game, but they do tell at least a partial story. The one they’re telling about the boys team is not pretty.
While Roder is right that boys hockey surpassed its conference win total for last year, he conveniently left out what those numbers are. Last year, the varsity won just a single conference game and finished in last place. This year, they got two wins, twice beating the same Apple Valley team that has a conference record of 0-15-1. This puts Shakopee in second to last place. Those aren’t the kind of wins that cause me to leap to my feet with applause.
The South Suburban Conference is indeed competitive, but it’s worth noting that the boys team does not play any of the top nine ranked teams in the state. Last year, the team finished the season with a six-game winless streak and only scored in one of those six games. This year, the team is once again winless in February and as I write this, was shut out in their last two games. They were outscored a lopsided 21-2 so far this month, including one game where the opponent had more goals than Shakopee had shots on goal.
With these numbers, it’s no wonder someone would say to wait 10 years before measuring success. But I think the players are very capable of doing a whole lot better now, even if others don’t.