By Carson Kipp
Winning multiple state and district titles over the years, Central’s hockey program has been a longtime source of pride for Walled Lake Central. Perhaps that’s why it’s so surprising and saddening that despite the program’s best efforts, there will be no Walled Lake Central Hockey this year due to a lacking roster.
The team reached a total of 13 eligible players by the time tryouts concluded, a dangerously low number. Sophomore Makaio Madsen says that the reason for the lack of interest in the program drew largely from the fact that the previous year’s varsity head coach, Gary Quitiquit, left the program at such short notice. “It all fell through when Quitiquit left in the summer,” said Madsen. Normally, the resignation of a head coach does not have such a catastrophic effect; however, Quitiquit left at a crucial point in hockey players’ seasons, when they choose to play for their school or take to a club team. “The panic for a coach set in and kids began to get worried if there was going to be a team at all. They all started to scramble and left for club teams even after we decided to have a team,” added Madsen.
Previous members of the Walled Lake Central Hockey team heard of this news and quickly joined local club teams in hopes of restoring their hockey season, causing the program to suffer from a deficit in players. One player forced to make this decision is Senior Ryan Sutcliffe, who left the program to play for his club team, Belle Tire.
Science teacher and Coach Ken LaCross filled Quitiquit’s position and began investigating possible sources of players. LaCross and the program tried everything to fill their spots, from recruiting new players, to posting flyers in the hallways, ultimately, it was not enough. The team even held open skates up to twice a week in hopes of potential players emerging, but by the time tryouts concluded, the team faced a grim reality, with only 10 of the 13 players having previous experience in hockey. “We didn’t leave a stone unturned, we checked every avenue for potential players, and I mean every one.” said Coach LaCross
Seniors Nate Raisanen and Matt Gannon were some of the program’s biggest supporters during its difficult times. Raisanen and Gannon, as well as other members of the team, took to talking to potential players individually, telling about the opportunities Walled Lake Central Hockey provided. “It’s our senior year, obviously this isn’t how I’d imagined it going, but I just want to play hockey.” said Raisanen in regards to his experiences.
A common phrase amongst players “I just want to play hockey” sums up the dedication that the players and supporters of the program provided this year. The team may have folded for the 2016 season, however hopes of restoring the program are still in the works with the formation of booster team for next year’s team. Further information on next year’s team can be found in LaCross’ room, B200 at Walled Lake Central.