All three years that Activities Director Darin Laabs has been in this position, he has been approached by either Becker or Big Lake about sharing a girls hockey program.
It appears that the schools to the southwest are about to get their wish.
At its October 23 meeting, the Princeton School Board will act on a request to a co-op in girls hockey with Becker and Big Lake.
If approved, the move would take place this coming season because the Minnesota State High School League has already granted Princeton a waiver that guarantees that Princeton’s girls hockey program remains a Class A program, Laabs said.
It’s the situation with classes that has kept Princeton from co-oping with Becker and Big Lake in the past. Under MSHSL rules, a school co-oping with another assumes the student enrollment of the schools coming into the program. Adding Becker or Big Lake, without the MSHSL waiver, would elevate the Princeton girls to a Class AA program.
“Our response had always been a quick no,” said Laabs, noting that he has never believed the stiff competition of Class AA programs has been a right fit for Princeton. That’s why the boys program no longer co-ops with Milaca, he said.
With a MSHSL waiver in hand, the co-op needs approval from just two more sources: the Princeton school board and the Section 5A member schools.
Six of eight schools in the Section co-op with other schools. Princeton and Chisago Lakes are the others.
“So far, everyone has said the co-op is fine,” Laabs said.
What does a co-op mean to the girls hockey program?
Most important, no Princeton skaters will be cut from the team, Laabs said.
“We are expecting to add one skater from Big Lake in each of the next four years,” Laabs said.
It’s not clear how a deal with Becker would affect the hockey program because a number of students move in and then out of Becker because of its current lack of a girls hockey program, he said.
The Princeton girls hockey program was preparing to kick off its season next month with 34 players. It’s now looking at 35 players, if the co-op is approved by the school board. The number of players will allow the program to dress three independent lines in both the varsity and junior varsity levels of play.
“That’s the first time in the history of our program,” Laabs said.
More coaches in other sports
The school board will be asked to hire three additional coaches for its girls basketball, girls hockey and wrestling programs as the district prepares to move next year into the Mississippi 10 Conference.
The girls basketball program is seeking an additional assistant coach at a cost of $2,992. The program wants to add a fourth level of play, or a “B” squad made up of sophomores who do not play on the varsity or junior varsity teams.
The girls hockey program also seeks an assistant coach at a cost of $2,992. There are currently just two coaches in the grades 9-12 program to handle the 35 skaters. An additional coach is needed to teach players and ensure player safety.
Like the girls basketball program, the wrestling program would like to add another level of play. The Granite Ridge and Mississippi 8 conferences both have a ninth-grade league, which Princeton does not currently participate in. A proposal is on the table to add an additional coach at a cost of $2,992. It is expected that Princeton would field a team of 11 ninth-grade wrestlers.