The WHS hockey program skates away from the varsity league


Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Desmond

This year, the Wayland High School hockey team opted to participate in a JV league rather than the usual varsity league. The biggest motivating factor behind this decision is the lack of upperclassmen on the team, with roughly half the team being freshmen. “It’s just such a young team, so the decision was made to cancel all of our varsity level hockey games in the DCL, and we entered into a JV level league running out of the Marlborough rink,” junior Ryan Desmond said.

With winter sports starting up soon, many boys are excited to start their hockey seasons. However, due to the lack of upperclassmen trying out, the athletic board of Wayland High School decided to keep the hockey team from participating in the varsity league. Instead, the team will play in a JV league.

The decision to withdraw from the varsity league came as a result of the number of underclassmen who planned on playing hockey for WHS. Although the team has enough players to put out a lineup, the upperclassman to underclassman ratio is troublesome.

“Over the last two years, we’ve graduated roughly 20 seniors, so right now we’re left with three seniors and one junior who are still playing and then eight or nine freshmen,” junior Ryan Desmond said. “It’s just such a young team, so the decision was made to cancel all of our varsity level hockey games in the DCL, and we have been entered into a JV level league running out of the Marlborough rink.”

Furthermore, this decision was made as a result of safety concerns for the underclassman athletes. The majority of the team would be freshmen, meaning that a team made up of mostly 14 and 15-year-olds would be facing teams stacked with 18-year-old seniors.

“[The WHS hockey program] was trying to get a co-op earlier in the year because we had too many freshmen, and they were concerned about their safety in a contact sport like hockey,” senior Michael Fantoni said. “They just wanted to keep the freshman safe I guess.”

The loss of their varsity season is heartbreaking for many players. However, those who are suffering the greatest loss are the three seniors. In addition to losing this year’s varsity season, they have been forced to endure the hardships of the COVID-19 restrictions last year, and the obstacles of not having a goalie during their sophomore year.

“I’ve loved [my hockey experience],” Fantoni said. “Obviously, I’ve had much adversity with [COVID-19]. I was injured my sophomore year, and I haven’t really played a lot, so this recent news is heartbreaking for me.”

Although the students who aren’t seniors have years ahead of them in their high school hockey careers, they expressed their sympathy for the seniors on the team, seeing as it may be the last time these individuals step out onto the ice.

“I can’t even describe how bad I feel [for the seniors],” Desmond said. “We’ve had so much against us from my freshman and sophomore year. In the 20 game season [my freshman year], we only won one game and it’s just tough—that was their sophomore year. Last year, we played seven hockey games instead of the regular 20. It’s really unfair for them.”

Although this decision is controversial and unideal, many players feel that it’s necessary given the circumstances.

“As much as I hate to say it, I do [agree with the decision],” Desmond said. “You know, when you only have one junior and three seniors, you can’t compete at a varsity level with that.”

With this decision, many hockey players have opted to not participate in the sport this season. One of these players is junior Jamie Nolan.

“I do feel guilty with how little time I gave the team to adapt and look for another goalie,” Nolan said.

However, the players who aren’t participating in WHS hockey this year continue to look forward to the winter sports season. With options such as basketball and wrestling in the running for most players, many former hockey players are exploring other sports to play.

“When I heard that we were going to have a season, but in a JV league, I had already moved on looking for different sports to play,” Nolan said. “I decided to start talking to other coaches about other winter sports, including Coach Parseghian for wrestling. Wrestling didn’t have a season during [COVID-19], so everyone is a year behind on their development.”

Even underclassmen, who played hockey in middle school and planned on joining the WHS hockey team this year, feel as though they will get more opportunities from the wrestling team than the hockey program.

“I think that hockey is more like a high school club [this year], while wrestling, which is what I’m doing now, is more like a high school sport,” freshman Matt Capello said. “I think that wrestling will be more consistent with practices and everything.”

Though some players plan on switching to wrestling, their hockey careers are not over. Some have decided to play for a club level hockey team outside of the winter season, for the ability to come in stronger in the hope of a varsity team next year.

“I don’t think [the decision] will affect [my future] too much,” Capello said. “I might be a little worse coming into next year, but I’ll still play for a club team, and I’ll probably do some [practicing] over the summer. If I really like wrestling, then I will keep doing wrestling, but I’ll probably go back to hockey.”

Although not ideal, many players have tried to move forward despite this difficult time. This looks different for each athlete, but when all is said and done, many former hockey players are grateful for the WHS hockey team.

“The Wayland hockey community is unmatched,” Nolan said. “My goals [this season] are to continue developing as an athlete and as a person.”