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Online petition seeks one unified Rochester girls high school hockey program

Ryan Langenbrunner, who has daughters who play in the Rochester Youth Hockey Association, has created an online campaign to open discussions about Rochester's high schools forming one combined girls hockey program. Currently, Mayo has its own program and Century and John Marshall are in their third season of a co-op.

Rochester Girls Hockey.jpg
An online petition to form one single girls high school hockey program in Rochester has more than 600 signatures in its first week of circulation.
Post Bulletin file photos
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Four years ago, Ryan Langenbrunner and other parents and coaches within the Rochester Youth Hockey Association began to do the math.

Looking at the number of girls on the ice at some levels of youth hockey in town, the concern became: How is the RYHA going to feed four high school programs enough players to allow them all to have full rosters?

The answer: It wasn’t. Or it couldn’t. At least not with the number of girls involved.

“I always struggled with the math of it all,” Langenbrunner said. “It’s an hourglass program, with decent numbers at youngest youth levels, then those numbers taper off and all of a sudden you explode it out to, at that time, four high school teams.”

At the time, Century, Mayo, John Marshall and Lourdes all had their own programs.

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Lourdes’ program dissolved after the 2020-21 season, when it possibly wasn’t going to have enough players to put a full lineup on the ice, much less make a full roster. John Marshall had joined Century in a co-op that same season (2020-21) so athletes from those schools had a chance to play.

It was a year or so before that, that the conversation began to get serious among some in the Rochester hockey community: Should there be just one girls high school program in the city?

“There was a group of people I started talking to who were involved in the girls program 4-5 years ago,” Langenbrunner said. “They had a push with (Rochester Public Schools) administration for something similar and didn’t get very far.

This was pre-COVID. … We brought a presentation forward from a task force to look at this option. It made it all the way to (then-)Superintendent Munoz. Then the pandemic hit and 100 percent understandably this got shelved and we stopped pushing because it wasn’t the right time.”

That conversation is back at the forefront.

A petition began circulating on social media last week, to gauge community support in forming one girls high school hockey program in Rochester. Langenbrunner’s name is listed as the creator of the campaign, which can be viewed and electronically signed by going to this link .

Langenbrunner said he isn’t looking for a certain number of signatures (the petition says it’s seeking 800), but rather to gauge how much interest there is from youth hockey parents, coaches and players about bringing the one-team idea to Rochester Public Schools administrators.

“When you do something like this, you get the negative feedback as well as the positive,” Langenbrunner said. “If people think this is a bad idea, I want to hear why they think that way, too. If you have the support of the people it may impact, then it raises different questions of why we’re doing what we’re doing.

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“I’d like to go deeper into it, approach RYHA and see if we can get some feedback there, maybe host some Q-and-A sessions, see if we can get some support there. We want to really try to understand the good and the bad, and understand everyone’s opinion.”

In addition to concerns about having enough players to fill two high school rosters in coming seasons, the petition also notes that Rochester’s teams have struggled to be competitive in the postseason. It’s been a decade, the petition notes, since a Rochester public school girls team has defeated a non-Rochester team in a playoff game.

“The RPS playoff record is not a reflection of the skill, work ethic or talent of the young women in our community,” the petition states, “rather a reflection of a structure that seems complacent with the status quo and structurally being set up to fail.”

The other primary concern raised in the petition is that a number of seventh-, eighth- or ninth-graders have been pulled up to the varsity level in recent seasons in order to fill rosters.

This season, Century/John Marshall has two freshmen and an eighth-grader on its varsity roster. Mayo lists three freshmen and one seventh-grader.

At the youth levels this season, RYHA has two 15U teams, with 29 total players on those rosters. It also has a 16-player 12U team as well as four 10U teams, with 54 total players. There is also a Girls City League program for players who choose not to play on a travel team.

“Part of this, too, is keeping kids in the community,” Langenbrunner, who has daughters who play at the 10U and Supermite levels, said, “not having families have to make a decision (about going to a different school district to play). It’s not taking away opportunities, it’s about putting kids in their age-appropriate and competitiveness-appropriate levels of play.”

Langenbrunner said he views the petition — which had more than 615 signatures as of Friday night, Nov. 25 — as a way to start a dialogue about the future of girls hockey in Rochester.

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“At the end of the day, I want to start a conversation about ‘what is the goal?’” he said. “What is the goal or measure of success we want as a community? What is the standard we’re going after?”

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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