The Northern Conference and Section 10 will crown a new Division II hockey champion in the 2012-13 season.
But it wont be because Salmon River Central doesnt have the talent to defend both titles. That couldnt be further from the truth.
In fact, the strength of the Shamrock program prompted the school district to move up to the Division I ranks, joining Massena, Potsdam and Canton. The Clayton-based Islanders, which drew players from several schools playing Division I last year, could possibly drop back to Division II if a merger with Carthage does not draw any players.
Based on enrollment figures, Massena, Potsdam and Canton also qualify to play at the Division II level, but all three moved to Division I because of their tradition in the sport at the Division I level.
Salmon River coach Tim Cook said that move to Division I is not an exploratory option.
We are not going to play Division I for two years and then see where we stand. This is a long term move and we will constantly building to stay there, Cook said.
Our program is in great shape, we have 50-60 kids trying out every year and our North Franklin Minor Hockey is really growing. We have great rivalries in Division II, which we plan to honor as much as we can. But we have developed a great playing relationship with Massena and our guys really get up for the Division I games.
Cook recalled that he was against the move when discussions began with Salmon River Athletic Director Sean Miller. But as the talks processed, the positives began to outweigh the negatives to the coach and the athletic director and the schools athletic committee concurred.
And so did the players.
Our kids firmly believe that we can win Division I, Cook said. The key thing was to get as tough a nonleague schedule as possible to help our players to constantly get better. In hockey the coaches schedule their own nonleague games, and playing Division I, with fewer division games, gives us a great deal of flexibility.
We play teams from all over the state and I dont think there is much difference Division I and II at the state level, Cook added.
Cook said the final factor in a tough decision came down to doing what was best for the players, program and school.
We want to provide our players with the best schedule possible to avoid losing them to prep schools and junior teams, which can be a real problem. We want our players to stay in our school, Cook said.