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VARSITY STATUS URGED FOR HOCKEY IN WAKE OF BRAWL

For Michael Kromke, the brawl outside a North Buffalo hockey rink that seriously injured a Buffalo teen-ager, though tragic, merely illustrates his point.

Kromke, who has coached the Frontier club hockey team and is a former club president, asked the Frontier Central Board of Education this month to sponsor hockey as a varsity sport.

He told the board that the good name of Frontier has been dragged down because of its association with club hockey.

"This is exactly why the Frontier name is being dragged through the mud," Kromke said of the fight that occurred after a club hockey game between Riverside and McKinley teams of the Explorer Hockey League. "What goes on on the ice is just fine."

"Believe it or not, there's quite a few of those incidents," said Larry Bryant, Frontier's director of health, physical education and recreation. "There are numerous other ones that happen on a weekly basis that we hear about from our kids and parents."

Kromke said playing the hockey games under the sponsorship of the district would mean there would be better supervision of the stands and more discipline of any students who do act up at games.

The Frontier club belongs to the Southtowns Club Hockey league. Kromke and hockey supporters propose that Frontier become the 10th team in the Western New York Ice Hockey Federation. Other teams playing in the federation include public schools Williamsville North, Williamsville East, Williamsville South, Amherst and Sweet Home and private schools Bishop Timon-St. Jude, St. Francis, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Canisius.

"Having control of students and athletes is a positive thing," Kromke said, adding that in the 10 years the federation has been in existence, there has been no violence in the stands or in the parking lots.

Bryant is compiling information on a varsity hockey program to present to the School Board in the next month. The board will consider adding hockey while it deliberates next year's budget.

He said it's difficult to judge what effect the fight outside the McKinley-Riverside game might have on Frontier's chances of getting a varsity team.

"I guess it depends on what angle you're coming from," he said. "Some might say you're crazy to consider it, and others might say this is why you should do it."

Bryant said Frontier regularly adds new sports, often after requests from the public. The newest sports are bowling and boys' and girls' lacrosse, and some modified levels of existing sports.

Supporters have talked to Hamburg Town Recreation Director Richard E. Tripp, who has written a letter of support and offered to negotiate ice fees and schedule times at the Hamburg Town Arena.

Kromke said most of the high-school-age hockey players in Hamburg have played with the Hamburg Municipal Hockey Association, which has more than 800 members.

Among the key factors he cites in favor of the district program is that players would be under the same strict guidelines of keeping up with academics, and the federation's zero tolerance for unacceptable behavior by players.

He said the league hires security guards for each game, and games are played on Saturday afternoons and Monday and Tuesday evenings at Buffalo State College and the Amherst Pepsi Center, he said.

Kromke said club officials believe the cost for the first year's varsity team would be in the range of $15,000, and annual costs after that would be lower.

He said players also would get to practice more than the one day a week they now practice with the club.

"(The club has) done a wonderful job, but it's time to pass the baton on and let the school do it," Kromke said.

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