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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: January 2009

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saratoga's Stevens nominated to McDonald's All-American squad

Well, so much for keeping a prestigious honor a secret when its presented by a multi-billion dollar corporation.

I received an e-mail telling me that Saratoga Springs senior Jordan Stevens had been named to the McDonald's All-American Boys selection listing for the 30th annual contest in April in Florida.

It is the start of the process of naming 24 boys and 24 girls to the McDonald's All-American team and Stevens is part of the 1,000 names that are forwarded to the selection committee.

The e-mail was to give us a heads up, to be at the Feb. 12 basketball game at Saratoga Springs High School where Stevens would be presented with his nomination award and of course, he didn't know about it, so they were trying to keep it a secret.

I'm good at keeping secrets, just ask...we'll I can't tell you, but you get the point.

That lasted less than two days before a "Media Alert" was sent out to the world by the local golden arches owner's group and now, basically, everyone knows.

Stevens is joined by Chris Pelcher and Tyler Foster from Albany Academy and Mariah Stewart who plays for Bishop Maginn, representing the Capital Region.

Despite the opportunity for surprise of exclusivity, the nomination is certainly deserved by Stevens and here's hopes that he makes it to the short list.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

100-0 in Texas hoops, how about 24-0 locally in youth hockey?

The Covenant School in Texas has been vilified since embarrassing Dallas Academy 100-0 in a girls basketball game Jan. 13, but apparently the news didn't reach Vermont.

Friday night locally at the Clifton Park Arena the Vermont, Essex pee wee level 'B' ice hockey team did virtually the same thing, beating the Massachusetts-based Demons 'C', 24-0, in the Between the Pipes 'C' Tournament in Clifton Park.

What makes this incredible is that a 'C' level team, the third rung of talent in any USA Hockey organization lit the lamp 24 times against another team.

A lot of 'C' level hockey teams may not score 24 goals in a tournament and some not even an entire season.

The tournament includes a form of a "mercy-rule" if the games get out of hand, but that is only put into effect in the third period if a team is up by more than five goals. Essex held a 19-0 lead after the first two periods and finally slowed down in the third, scoring just five.

According to the Essex Sting web-site the 'B' team came in with a 15-6-3 record, scoring 108 goals on the year and giving up 62. Not as lopsided as one would think.

The team's leading scorer, Zach Godin, son of coach Scott Godin added to his stats, scoring five goals Friday night and handing out four assists, adding to his team-high tally of 35 goals and 17 assists. The same held true for Jake Vespa who scored five and added three assists to his season tally of 28 goals and 24 assists.

According to one tournament representative, Essex was threatened with an expulsion from the tournament outright due to sportsmanship rules. On Saturday, Essex beat Framingham C2, 3-1.

The weekend didn't get any better for the Demons, the were dropped by host Clifton Park 8-0 and Framingham C3 10-2 on Saturday, so how much can we blame on Essex?

Either way you have to feel for the Demons with two shutout white washings on the road in a tournament that costs a couple of hundred dollars to get drubbed.

What makes this situation even more sad or laughable or possibly truly embarrassing, the Essex Sting youth hockey web-site on its main page touts itself as "a founding member of the Positive Youth Sports Alliance -- Essex. EYHA parents, players and friends can use the link below to nominate any Essex coach for the PYSA Coach of the Year Award."

I don't know if Scott Godin will receive any votes from the Massachusetts ice hockey community after this weekend.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shen turf field bids sent out, maybe, probably, don't know

It's only been three working days and two phone calls since I've called the Shenendehowa School District offices to confirm that bids were sent out regarding the athletic field upgrades and construction.

I called to confirm that the bids were sent and requested a copy of the bids that spell out the scope of work. Also included would be the bid opening dates, etc.

Still no word.

I can't say that I'm surprised, but it is, once again, frustrating.

I plan on calling on Wednesday and then, if necessary, filing a Freedom of Information request on Thursday.

I'm sure that after the five days expires from my request I may actually have what I asked for originally.

I'll keep you updated.


NYSPHSAA conference call scheduled for Tues, notes soon

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association had a conference call scheduled today, Jan. 20, to help finalize some of the ideas of how to reduce overall spending by school districts in regards to athletics in the future.

Several ideas have included shortening the sports seasons across the board and combining the state championships of more "individual sports" to single classes versus the current four and five champion format.

Several coaches and administrators have already confirmed that regular season schedules will be shortened as part of a cost reduction format.

I've got a call into the NYSPHSAA to request minutes from the conference call so I can follow up for a reaction from the local school districts.

A meeting of the NYSPHSAA executive committee is scheduled for Jan. 30.


Toga T-shirt orders close out Jan. 27

It's one of the more amusing fund raisers that I have seen, but it's definitely worthwhile.

The Saratoga Springs High School cheerleaders are offering limited edition T-shirts allowing all to show their Blue Streak spirit.

On the front of the T-shirt (available in extra small to 3XL, thanks for thinking of me!) is a tall water bottle on the left with the phrase "There must be something in the water." On the back is the phrase: "NOPE! We're just that good. Saratoga Athletics."

Each T-shirt is $12 and checks must be made payable to 'Toga Cheer. The checks must be postmarked by Jan. 27 and the pick-up date is at Saratoga High Feb. 6 from 3 to 9 p.m.

Orders can be placed with any Saratoga High cheerleader or parent or mail your check and request to Eunique Priest, 26 Hawk Street, Schenectady, NY, 12307.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Hudson Valley may cancel summer Empire State Games

This is the AP story that I came across late Friday night.

I can't say that I'm surprised because of the monies raised by the LOC (local organizing committees) needed to host events like this each year.

When the NYS Dept. of Parks cut the events and divisions, they never did the math about the lack of support the LOCs would get.

POUGHKEEPSIE -- AP -- The Hudson Valley committee scheduled to host this year's Empire State Games said Friday that the events could be canceled because of proposed cutbacks in state funding.

The 2009 Hudson River Valley Empire State Games Local Organizing Committee is unhappy about a proposal requiring high school athletes to pay a participation fee.

The state parks department announced last week that funding for the games will end in the next fiscal year due to the state's huge budget deficit. Starting this year, the agency says participation fees will be set at $285 for the summer games and up to $100 for the winter games. Previously, there was no participation fee.

Some events will also be suspended in this year's winter and summer games, including scholastic boxing, bobsled and skeleton. Senior games and all masters and open competitions will be suspended for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins in April.

The organizing committee faxed a letter to parks Commissioner Carol Ash on Friday to inform her of their decision.

"The Hudson River Valley Local Organizing Committee arrived at this regrettable decision based on an overwhelming feeling that the participation fee violates the spirit of the games," wrote Steven Lant, the group's chairman.

Lant also wrote that objections to the fees were so strong among their host site partners, sponsors and volunteers "that maintaining the support necessary for the games has become untenable."

"We just received the letter this morning, we are reviewing it, and we still have not determined our next step," said parks department spokesman Dan Keefe on Friday afternoon.

The Empire State Games began in 1978 and have operated on an annual budget of $3 million, most of it from the state. The 2009 summer games were scheduled to be held at venues throughout Orange, Ulster and Dutchess Counties from July 22-26. The games were linked to celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage.

Click here for my story about the Empire State Games reduction in events and announcement of a participation fee in this week's Community News.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to the Dept. of Parks and Rec from the Newsday site.


Time to name names of Shen hockey players

It’s been more than two weeks since the Shenendehowa ice hockey team took a skating blade to its own throat as 12 players were caught up in a marijuana smoking incident on a road trip that was discovered by their head coach in the early morning hours on Dec. 30.

Since then eight players have been removed from the team (it is reported that one player was removed from the school district by his parents) and four others are serving minimums of five-game suspensions.

The school district refuses to release the in-school penalties, names as well as school suspensions for those involved, but as I have done in the past, it’s time to name names.

Here is a list of the 16 players NOT involved in the events of Dec. 29 and 30 and who have played five games without 12 of their teammates who chose self, individuality and to partake in an illegal activity.

The New 2008-2009 Shenendehowa ice hockey team
1  Peter Rakowsky  Goalie  Junior
4  Brian Tosti     Defense   Senior
5  Tommy Asterino  Defense   Junior
6  Joey Ferraro   Defense  Freshman
8  Andrew Plewinski  Forward   Sophomore
9  Kyle Hunter     GT/Defense   Senior
11  Tyler Ballantyne  Defense   Sophomore
15  Zach DeRosa    Forward   Sophomore
16  Jason Wade      Forward   Sophomore
19  Michael McCarthy  Forward   Sophomore
22  Nick Rainville      Forward   Senior
23  Anthony Barone  Forward   Sophomore
24  T.J. Goodwin    Forward   Sophomore
25  Eric Chamberland  Defense   Sophomore
26  Justin Reilly    Defense   Senior
27  Matt Findlay    Forward   Junior

Several other players will be added to the roster as the athletic suspensions have been served, but for the past five contests, this group has carried the burden and shared the experiences of what being a team and most importantly, what a teammate is all about.

Good job guys, for the past, the present and hopes for a bright future.

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NYSPHSAA asks chairpeople for cost saving ideas

The hits just keep on coming for sports across the board and their financial woes.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association hosted a conference call for its chairpeople last week, brainstorming ideas on how to reduce the cost of athletics at the state level.

Many of the ideas that came out will trickle down and impact sports at the sectional level and could include a reduction in contests and a combining of classes at the state level.

Some are easy to comprehend, less regular season contests lessens travel and officiating expenses. The combining of classes for championships will be met with some resistance.

Wrestling lobbied hard for two divisions, doubling the amount of competitors crowned sectional and state champions, that could be tough to swallow. Cross country has enjoyed crowning champions across five classes at the sectional level and at the state level, now the fields could be combined.

Section II chairperson Fred Gula likes the combination of "individual sports". Other voices offered up reducing the classifications from five to the original four. The question of whether to combine the larger schools AA and A or the smaller schools C/D would hear objections from all involved.

The next scheduled call is for Jan. 20 and I'll follow-up right after.

Here's a link to my story about the conference call in this week's Community News .


Empire State Games lose funding and even more

If last week wasn't filled with enough bad news, the press release from tne New York State Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has just crippled the Empire State Games as we know it.

The budget went from 2.7 million to zero for the 2009-10 New York State budget and with it, possibly the games themselves.

The February winter and July summer games will go on as scheduled but "scaled back".

Apparently in the budgetary dictionary, "scaled back" means reducing participation by 2/3rds.

The open and masters divisions competitions have been suspended for the winter and summer games and the scholastic division will now carry a $285 participation fee to cover transportation and meals for the annual four-day event.

The games have always had their detractors arguing that the games don't get the "best athletes" because of competition with showcases, basketball's AAU, baseball, softball, soccer elite summer leagues.

The argument from the staffers in the media room has been, it's free, it's fun and it's a labor of love from the press box.

Now all of that could be gone.

The event reduced the number of participants to 2,500 from 7,500, divided among six regions that's less than 500 athletes from a region, and even less from a local coverage standpoint.

It also reduced the economic impact to Hudson Valley this summer and the Buffalo area next year by 2/3rds. The local organizing committees must be thrilled with the news also.

Adirondack Regional Director Lynn Chabot is hoping for Divine intervention by the legislature to remove or reduce the participation fee. I'm not as hopeful.

Looking at a $15.1 billion deficit, a cool $3 million is at least a start towards its reduction, but at what cost in the long run.

$285 may not seem like a big amount today, but with layoffs being announced daily across the Capital Region and May school budgets facing an uphill battle, most likely to be voted down at record numbers and property taxes expected to rise as school aid reductions in the double-digit amount in May, $285 now may seem like $1 million to families of athletes as the games approach.

Here is my story in this week's Community News.

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Shen's Super 16 show their mettle versus Glens Falls

It was less than 24 hours after I wrote my column about the Shenendehowa ice hockey players involved in a violation of school and athletic policy on Dec. 29 while on a road trip that I was the "new-look" squad take on Glens Falls on the road.

The early part of warm-ups was determining who was still a part of the Plainsmen squad, making sure their top goalie was injured (and fortunately didn't make the road trip) and who the heck were these kids without names on their jerseys.

With that done, it was time to focus on the action on the ice and not off.

While the game lacked some of the speed and skill I've seen before at the varsity level and from this particular ice hockey squad, these Super 16 went from the Bad News Bears to Miracle on Ice in less than 45 minutes.

They were shaky at first, came on strong and became one of my favorite teams of all time, scoring two goals in 42 seconds and both times with their goalie pulled to force overtime.

The game was fantastic, the players displayed the hearts of champions and I've never seen a bigger smile on a coach after a loss than was on Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha's face than after the Plainsmen's 5-4 overtime loss.

He didn't want to talk about the infractions, asked the media to downplay it with his players, but the actions of former mite goalie, now varsity defenseman-turned goalie out of necessity, Kyle Hunter couldn't go unnoticed.

Maybe the lessons learned were worthwhile after least for the Super 16.

For the game story click here Glens Falls 5, Shen 4 OT .

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Tough lessons for Shen hockey

This winter was already labeled a challenging year for the Shenendehowa varsity ice hockey team after graduating 12 players that scored more than 150 goals last year and captured its sixth-consecutive Section II Capital District High School Hockey League title. The roster contained a few familiar faces, but also included a slew of new players thrust into the spotlight as a Plainsmen hockey player looking to capture a seventh straight title.

The 2008-2009 season and the chance of repeating went from challenging to impossible for the remaining Shenendehowa ice hockey players and its coaching staff due to the mistakes made by almost half of the squad on a road trip to the SUNY Morrisville tournament.

To capture a Section II title in any sport, in any class, it takes a determined group of athletes, long practices, key victories, remaining healthy, eligible and a having a little luck along the way helps too.

Those hopes of a seventh consecutive title went literally, up in smoke.

A decision was made by several players to obtain, transport, light up and smoke marijuana late Dec. 29 after a win.

They were caught by their coach, reported immediately and the school administration ruled that the infraction warranted an expulsion from the team for eight of the 12 players involved.

Last year during interviews the team's seniors they spoke of the pressure of repeating and not wanting to be the team that didn't win a Section II title.

This year's squad, the players removed from the team, the players serving multiple game suspensions and the 16 players who will attempt to make the most of the remaining season will never forget what could have been.

How's that for a legacy.

For the upperclassmen, some of their high school hockey seasons are over. For the underclassmen, they have to live with the fact that their season was cut short by a foolish decision rather than unfortunate injuries.

The media was energized regarding the infraction and the subsequent penalties. My story about it ran on the front page of The Saratogian two days in a row and on the cover of today's Community News.

I've had the privilege of covering Southern Saratoga County's athletes for the past 11 years and written hundreds if not thousands of stories about the successes, wins and efforts of various teams.

I've also written about teams that have been short athletes due to "a violation of team rules" and been in the court room when sentencing was handed down to athletes involved in other incidents.

But the event surrounding this week's dismissals are historic and for all the wrong reasons.

Now that the penalties have been levied there remains a question mark hanging over each and every period played of "the new season."

What if (X-player) was on that line? What if (X-player) was still on the penalty kill, or the power play? Would they have won that game? Would the season have been salvaged? Could they have won a seventh consecutive title?

We will never know.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Shen sends eight to penalty box for the season

Eight Shenendehowa varsity ice hockey players have been removed from the team for their involvement Dec. 29 at a Morrisville hotel during a school-sponsored trip to a tournament. Shenendehowa ice hockey coach Juan de la Rocha caught six players smoking marijuana in a players room and six more were found to have involvement in the incident.

“The penalties ranged from five-day suspensions from school to long-term suspensions that could be as long seven weeks,” Shenendehowa Director of Physical Education and Athletics, Christopher Culnan said. “Four players will be eligible to return, eight players have been removed from the team based on their level of involvement.”

Culnan and High School principal Donald Flynt met with the 12 players and their respective parents on Tuesday to hand down penalties.

Culnan would not divulge the names of the offending players, citing school privacy policies.

Culnan confirmed that this event was the largest dismissal of athletes from any team during a sport season at Shenendehowa in the past 10 years.

“I think that due to the magnitude of the incident the school district took a long look at our code of conduct,” Culnan said. “At the end of the code of conduct there is a caveat that states ‘the facts of any incident may warrant immediate removal from the team if the Director of Physical Education and Athletics and the building principal believe that the offenses committed by the athlete warrants such action.’”

The first six offending players were turned over to their parents on Dec. 30 at the hotel after a discussion between de la Rocha, Culnan and the school administrators. The parents were on-site, making the trip to support the team. The remaining six players were suspended from competition as the investigation progressed and more facts surfaced.

“Our parents sign a code of conduct and our kids sign a code of conduct,” Culnan said. “Our coaches follow-up with me each season and our coaches go over the code of conduct at each of our parents night. I think this time those messages fell on deaf ears. Hopefully this will send a message that these actions will not be tolerated and will be handled appropriately.”

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Shen hockey season may be up in smoke

As the day turned to night and the phone continued to ring, the "official" word came out that six Shenendehowa ice hockey players were discovered smoking marijuana during a road trip to SUNY Morrisville Dec. 29 and 30.

The violation was confirmed by a school district official and various media outlets, including an interview with Shenendehowa school superintendent Dr. L. Oliver Robinson.

Six were discovered smoking the illegal substance the first night, turned over to their parents and suspended pending a formal investigation. The next day six more players were found to have been involved in the infraction, causing their suspension.

What is amusing, surprising or ridiculous is that the news of the event was being texted throughout the Shen student body just days later during the holiday break. A week later the squad was seen playing short-handed and the phone calls to my phone began.

The players face a possible five-day suspension from school (according to the 47-page Shenendehowa Student Code of Conduct and will be followed up by a suspension of varying degrees from the team from five games or more based on the athletic code of conduct.

The school district will not release the names or the punishment levied to the students.

For the next four games the Plainsmen may be only suiting up as many as 14 players, nine not involved in the event and five called up from the practice squad.

It appears that a seventh-consecutive CDHSHL title could be "up in smoke" for the Plainsmen, despite an open sectional policy. Shenendehowa may not be able to recover from this major penalty.

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Shen hockey suspends 12 on the road

I didn't expect this to be my first post for 2009, but it has to take the cake for starting the year off with a bang.

The Shenendehowa ice hockey team has suspended 12 players for violations of both school and athletic code of conduct violations.

I was alerted to this after reading Will Montgomery's story in Sunday's Troy Record.

From the there, the phone calls, both real and anonymous confirmed the story and the apparent violations on the road.

The school district would not provide names of the suspended players or specifics about the infractions, citing school privacy policies.

“We have a large number of athletes who have been suspended from participating in practices and games due to a violation of both our school and athletic code of conduct,” Shenendehowa Director of Physical Education and Athletics Christopher Culnan said. “It was an incident that took place during a school sponsored interscholastic trip out to the SUNY Morrisville tournament.”

Shenendehowa traveled to compete in the SUNY Morrisville tournament on Dec. 29 and defeated Pittsford, 3-2. Later that night and into the evening the violations were said to have been discovered.

“The violations was discovered by the coaching staff and reported to me at 1:30 a.m. that morning by the coach of the team,” Culnan said. “The decision was made to immediately remove any students involved from playing that day (Dec. 30) and potentially more students were not allowed to practice or play during Christmas break pending the outcome of a full investigation was completed.”

According to Culnan because of the nature of the violations and the large group of parents on site, staying with the team in the same hotel, the athletes were immediately placed in their parents’ custody the following morning after conferring with the school administration. The Shenendehowa School Resource Officer and New York State Trooper Dale Palmer, was also contacted.

Now how would you like that drive home from Downstate New York back up to Clifton Park with mom and dad after you were just suspended from the team?

Shenendehowa lost to Whitesboro, 4-3 on Dec. 30 and then fell to rival LaSalle Jan. 3, 3-2, as the Plainsmen dressed only 14 players, including five call-ups from the practice squad.

This isn’t the first time a Shenedehowa athletic team has been in trouble. In March 2008 in an incident deemed the “Hockey House” by press, occurred at a property located at 1542 Route 9 when 23 charges were filed against 13 minors. The charges included third-degree criminal mischief and unlawfully dealing with a child. The Shenendehowa boys varsity lacrosse team also felt the wrath of the school district as 21 players served four and eight game suspensions from their involvement at the off-campus drinking party and subsequent vandalism. Several of the lacrosse players involved were also ice hockey players during the 2007-08 season.

The latest incident could bring even harsher penalties since the violations fall under both the school and athletic codes of conduct.

In our print edition we could not conclude the violation because none of my sources were willing to go on the record. I can confirm that once again this is beyond "boys being boys" and poor judgement was a factor in the misdeeds.

I'll be at Wednesday's game at Glens Falls, the original plan was because it was anticipated as a strong match-up, now it's just to see who is still elgible to suit up for the Plainsmen. Those names I will name.

Here are a few links of interest:
The "Hockey House" series - Hockey House incident, Naming Names, and Justice served?

I also included links to the Shenendehowa Web-site regarding their rules and regulations including: Shen's school code of conduct and Shen's athletic code of conduct.

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