Hockey rivals’ merger almost done

Keene, Lake Placid baseball teams may be next to combine

Saranac Lake and Lake Placid boys hockey players battle on Jan. 31. These local arch-rivals will probably be teammates this coming winter. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid and Saranac Lake boys hockey teams are likely to merge in the coming school year.

The Lake Placid Board of Education unanimously approved the merger on Tuesday. The Saranac Lake Board of Education had previously approved the decision June 19. It now goes to Section VII officials, who need to approve the merger before it’s finalized.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I have to vote this way,” said Lake Placid school board member Bryan Liam Kennelly. “I think this is indicative of the declining population of our towns.”

School board member Colleen Locke agreed.

“Moving forward, what opportunities do we have if we want a team that’s going to be competitive?” she said.

The high schools’ girls hockey teams merged in 2017 and now compete under the name Saranac Lake Placid. In SLP’s first two seasons playing as a combined squad, the girls reached the Section VII championship game, which they won this year.

The boys hockey teams are expected to start operating under a unified identity this coming school year, with both districts bearing the cost.

Continuing school enrollment decline has eroded sports programs in recent years at many North Country schools. The limited number of players has sometimes prompted Lake Placid to forfeit boys hockey games due to illness and injuries.

Two years ago, the hockey team was down to nine players during a game. This year, it relied on just one goalie, sophomore Anders Stanton.

Saranac Lake’s teams have more robust numbers but are projected to decline in the next few years. It’s a bigger district than Lake Placid but is also dropping in student numbers.

With authorization from both schools’ boards, officials will discuss who will coach the new unified team and what, if anything, may be done to accommodate younger players.

Another merger?

The Lake Placid School Board of Education also discussed another merger on Tuesday, this one with Keene Central School.

Keene anticipates not having enough players to fill a boys baseball team this coming school year, Superintendent Roger Catania said.

“They’re asking us to add (players) by providing a baseball merger,” he said.

Keene is already sending students to Lake Placid to join its Nordic ski team. The school also participates in merged track and field and cross-country teams with Lake Placid.

The Lake Placid school board took no action on the potential baseball merger. Members are set to discuss it again at their next meeting on July 16.