Academics and the strengthening of the development of St. Michael’s College School’s hockey program were skating on the same line Jan. 29.
After securing a spot in the Mid-West Prep Hockey League in May, St. Mike’s announced the signing of a new 10-year deal with the Majors, St. Michael’s Junior A hockey club.
Terry Sheridan, president and principal of the school made the announcement to a small roster of media and alumnae before a crucial game for the senior boys hockey team against Ridley College Tigers, out of St. Catharines.
“Bringing the Majors’ name back to our school proper, we engaged in a hockey program that would see our varsity players commit exclusively to play here at the school, in CIS AA and in tournaments locally and abroad,” Sheridan said. “This has led to a tremendous amount of success, and we anticipate even greater rewards playing in the Mid-West Prep League south of the border next fall.
“The next step was to create a relationship with the Buzzers that was mutually beneficial. In this new agreement the St. Mike’s Majors will in essence be a feeder system for the Buzzers and our student-athletes will be given first opportunity, ability notwithstanding, to become the next Buzzers players.”
The model allows the school, under the guidance of head coach Chris DePiero, to develop players so they can make it to the next level. That entails throwing the Majors into a more competitive hockey league, such as the MPHL.
Buzzers president Mike McCarron said he was encouraged by the decision, which took about a year to carve out. He noted the
franchise has had its greatest success when the team is comprised of primarily St. Mike’s students.
The Buzzers won the Ontario Junior Hockey League titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
“The difference in those years, it was almost made up of exclusively St. Michael’s kids,” McCarron said. “There were very few kids that didn’t go to St. Mike’s and that’s really what this is all about — trying to get as many St. Mike’s players to this level as possible.”
He shrugged off any suggestion the new deal was a negotiation.
“When you hear negotiations you think of these difficult conversations between one side is trying to win,” he said. “The reason it took so long is we wanted to get it right from the get-go.”
St. Mike’s will be able to veto any changes to the Buzzers’ ownership and coaching staff. The deal also offers more financial security for the junior hockey program.
“Junior hockey is not a viable business,” McCarron said. “In fact, it’s been called a money pit the last 10 years, and that’s not good for hockey.
“When something is not sustainable financially, people come and go too easily.”
He said the new model shows commitment to the Buzzers and to the school to make it financially viable.
The future looks bright, and three members of the senior boys Majors — Duncan Coulson, Michael Pontarollo and Daniel Tyrrell — say they couldn’t be happier.
“I think it’s great for the school and for the Buzzers because we’ve got a lot of good players coming out of St. Mike’s,” Coulson said. “It’s also a great opportunity for the younger guys that are going to want to stay at St. Mike’s so they can get the opportunities to play with the Buzzers.
“Maybe play on the preps team in Grade 11 if they’re not ready yet.”