Hamburg boys ice hockey coach John McFall is one of those "not thrilled" with the realignment plan that will be in place for the 2021-22 season in the Section VI Boys Hockey Federation, but agrees that the plan is the "best solution we have" for the sport.
The Fed plan will see leagues set up next season along more usual alignments rather that those used in recent years. With the change, basically, the private schools (members of the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association), the Niagara Frontier League schools in the Fed and two ECIC divisions will make up the four groupings with each league member meeting each of the other twice.
Hamburg is one of the public schools most affected by the realignment because it will face other league teams with larger enrollments.
McFall, who sits on the the Fed board as the coaches representative for small school teams, admits that realignment will create more difficult competition for his team. Hamburg will be grouped with Clarence, Lancaster, Orchard Park and Williamsville North, schools from ECIC I that have larger enrollments. Those school teams plus the combined Lockport/Niagara Falls team have enrollments of 1,000 or more, which qualifies them as large schools for sectional, regional and state championship play according to the New York State High Schools Athletic Association. By Buffalo News count, there are only 73 NYSPHSAA members with enrollments of 1,000 or more, not all of whom field varsity boys hockey teams.
Although Hamburg, Frontier and West Seneca West will compete in a league with four large schools, they would be classified as small schools when it comes to sectional and state tournament play. Frontier played in the large school division last season, but Hamburg and West Seneca competed in the small school division leagues.
"There were a lot of issues to look at geography, size of schools and competitiveness," when realignment was considered, McFall said. "The section wanted to have our leagues aligned with other sports."
"I like it mostly," McFall said of the plan. "We're mostly stuck in the middle with Hamburg being one of the larger small-school teams. I'm not thrilled with that but the best solution we have is redoing our divisions. For us, it's going to be a tough schedule. We'll see how it goes."
The schedule plan allows each team to play crossover games against teams outside their division to reach the 16-game limit before playoffs. McFall said Hamburg's four games against outside opponents have not been determined. He said he would welcome games against close-by private school teams such as Bishop Timon-St. Jude and St. Francis or strong small school division teams that are likely to be faced when the Bulldogs compete in the sectional playoffs.
The private school division will be bolstered by the addition of a team from Nichols School. Playing each of the other Private School League teams twice would still leave each with six schedule openings.
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