Westminster, VT—As the winter rapidly ends in late March and early April, most minors in Bellows Falls are sad about the melting snow but not the melting ice. Ice hockey is on the decline at Bellows Falls High School; only a few students at Bellows Falls play ice hockey, all for private programs. For the past two years, the local private program, PVA, has not fielded a high-school age team. To keep ice hockey alive in Bellows Falls, the high school has made an agreement with Hartford High School to allow Bellows Falls Union High School students to play on their team.
For Clayton Groenewold, a BFUHS Senior, this was the perfect opportunity to continue playing ice hockey on a competitive level. “The deal worked great for me because I got to meet new kids and I got a team to play for in High School. I also learned a lot from the coach and I learned a lot of transferable skills that shaped me as a person.” While Clayton believes that his participation has made a positive impact on his life, he admits that the current scope of the deal with Hartford High is limited. He says he would only recommend the program for varsity-ready students because, “It’s a major time commitment, and Freshmen and Sophomores pretty much sit on the bench.”
When asked about how Bellows Falls could build a real ice hockey program, he stated, “Well, first you need a hockey rink, but you also need a strong youth program, kind of like what happened with the PVA program when we were young.” Obviously, building an ice hockey program is expensive, but Clayton is confident because of the passionate fan base of the sport. “Hockey parents are crazy about their sport,” he says. “With a strong youth program, we can definitely get funding.”
While most of Bellows Falls has seemingly forgotten about ice hockey, Clayton reminisces about an exciting season he will never forget. “It was kind of like a roller coaster with ups and downs all season,” he exclaims. “The first half of the season we were 0-9-1, and then the second half we turned things around. I had the most goals for the team in the second half of the season and broke the record for shots on goal. I got voted MVP by my teammates.”
Congratulations to Clayton for pursuing his passion and keeping hockey alive for BFUHS, even if only by a thread!