Hornets won’t be missed | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hornets won’t be missed

Jared Green

Despite a scandal that caused the cancellation of the second half of the 2003 season, South Lake Tahoe’s top recreation official is grateful for the Sacramento State University hockey team’s presence for the past two years.

That said, he’s not exactly heartbroken the Hornets aren’t coming back for a third season.

“Having the team here was good for hockey in the area, no question,” said Gary Moore, the recreational superintendent for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “The publicity it gave us and the quality of hockey they provided really drummed up interest in the sport.”

With the college team out of the picture, however, there is more ice time available for locals to skate and play hockey. The excitement the Hornets provided has helped create an increase in youth participation and that will fill the time they vacated.

“(Sacramento State) has moved in another direction and that’s what we expected,” Moore said. “Ice time is getting tough to come by and we have to take care of our local teams first.”

The 2003 edition of the team turned out to have only three of its 28 players eligible and was shut down by the university in early March. The team captain, Chris Perry, absorbed much of the blame and was suspended indefinitely by the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Perry, who was employed at the Lake Tahoe Ice Arena as a recreational coordinator, was suspended from that job and left town soon after.

One remnant of the Sacramento State program is still at the Ice Arena, as coach Jim Copel works in arena operations and helps coach youth teams. On Wednesday, Copel was coaching a youth clinic.

Ken Morton, the recreational sports director at Sacramento State, said the school isn’t likely to have a hockey team next year and if one did come about, it wouldn’t be practicing or playing in South Lake Tahoe.

“We tried it and it really didn’t work,” Morton said. “Everyone ended up quitting and (Perry) ended up recruiting illegal players. I don’t think people want to drive two hours to play hockey.”

According to Moore, interest in hockey and skating in South Lake Tahoe has increased to the point that the Ice Arena would have had trouble renewing the Hornets’ contract for ice time if the team wished to return this year. There are now travel teams in several youth divisions and there will be a third level of adult leagues introduced this fall. The college team used an average of four to five hours of ice time per week and Moore can fit practice time for two youth teams into that slot.

While the Sacramento State team was bringing in larger crowds during its second season, the Ice Arena’s contract with the team was solely for ice time. The team took the profits from ticket sales, so Moore doesn’t foresee any financial impact from the Hornets leaving.

“There should be no revenue loss or participation loss in them leaving,” he said. “We probably would have had to downsize their ice time anyway, so it’s probably for the best for everyone that they’re not coming back.”

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