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Junior A hockey season to open without tuition agreement in City of Lockport

LOCKPORT – The Lockport Express Junior A hockey team will open its second season in Cornerstone Arena on Friday without an agreement with the school district on a tuition break for out-of-town players.

The School Board has not acted on the team’s request to waive the out-of-district tuition charge of about $7,500 a year for any of the school-age players from outside the city, owner Steve Bueme said.

“For this year, it’s too much in a short time,” Bueme said, referring to his request to the board in July.

School Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said, “The board would certainly be interested in discussing this, but they have not changed their policy.”

According to Bueme, help came from the Victory Christian School in North Tonawanda, which took some of the school-age players. Parents of some players were believed to be affluent enough to enroll their sons in area Catholic schools. Most of the roster is past school age, however, and none of the players lives in Lockport, although there are some from other communities in Niagara County.

About one-fourth of the 23-player roster was recruited from outside Western New York, said Bueme, an Orchard Park businessman. Bueme said a tuition break would help his franchise’s efforts to recruit players.

Besides the Junior A team, Bueme has started 15-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under teams in the North American Prospects Hockey League.

The Express starts its 46-game regular season in Cornerstone Arena, Chestnut and Market streets, with a weekend series against the Rochester-based Roc City Royals.

A 7 p.m. pregame ceremony is scheduled for Friday, with police and fire personnel to be honored on the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey will drop the puck for a ceremonial faceoff before the game. The teams will play again at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The North American Prospects League was independent last season, but this year it has come under the umbrella of USA Hockey, the governing body for amateur hockey in the United States.

Last season, the Express led the league in attendance and made the playoffs but was eliminated in the first round. Ticket prices will remain at $5 general admission for all seats.