‘Hockey’s coming back’

Monroe-Woodbury varsity ice hockey program reinstated

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  • Photo by Erika Norton The Monroe-Woodbury varsity hockey team posed with State Sen. Bill Larkin (R-39), who vouched for the district keeping the program from being eliminated.

  • Photo by Erika Norton Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez recieves a hug from hockey player Ryan Urtz after presenting her with a Crusader hockey jersey.

  • Photo by Erika Norton Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-99) helped save the varsity ice hockey program at Monroe-Woodbury High School.

  • Photo by Erika Norton Monroe-Woodbury Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez shows off her new Crusader hockey jersey given to her by the varsity hockey team.


A handful of Monroe-Woodbury varsity ice hockey players presented their school superintendent, Elsie Rodriguez, with an oversized #34 Crusader hockey jersey on Wednesday, a gesture that would have seemed extremely unlikely just a week ago.

The teammates were thanking Rodriguez, the school district, the Newburgh Ice Time sports complex and several elected officials for making a deal ensuring that their program would no longer be eliminated as part of budget re-allocation. The district had said they planned to use the money for hockey to start new programs: a freshman football team, junior varsity lacrosse teams and a special education unified sports program.

From heartbreak to smiles“At first when we found out it was going to be gone, I was heartbroken,” said junior Ryan Urtz, a player since his freshman year. “But as you can see today by the smiles in the room, the atmosphere around, that it’s a good feeling to have the passion back, to have what you strive for every year.

“As a student all the way up from freshman year, I knew I just got to get through the first month of school because the second month, hockey’s coming back.”

A collaborative solutionAbout 200 parents, players and alumni showed up at several board meetings over the past few weeks urging the district to keep the varsity hockey program and local elected officials received a flood of emails, who also lobbied the district to save the sport.

According to Rodriguez, the school district, the hockey booster club and the Ice Time sports complex (where the Crusaders practice) reached a compromise: the district will fund $25,000 and the hockey boosters will have to cover 25 percent of the $61,000 needed to pay for the program.

In addition, the management of the Ice Time Sports Complex agreed to reduce their rental fees for several years, and the district received promise of aid from state government officials.

Steven Pelosi of the booster club said he expects the club will be able to make up their share through fund raising.

‘You made (us) very proud’“I know that sometimes that you guys feel as young adults and teenagers that your voices are not heard or that people don’t want to hear what you have to say,” Pelosi said, addressing the group of hockey players. “But when you stand up and speak in the manner that you did, with intelligence, dignity and respect, people listen and your words are heard.

“In these times that would seem like constant negativity, there wasn’t one negative tweet or one angry Facebook post from any of you. You’ve taught your classmates quite a lesson, and you’ve made your parents, school and coaches very proud.”

Assemblyman James Skoufis also said that he was glad he was able to help keep the hockey program, not only as their elected official, but as a proud Monroe-Woodbury alum.

And like Pelosi, Skoufis said that this was a big win for the players who respectfully spoke up and helped save their team.

President of the management firm for Ice Time, Danielle Anderson, said she was happy to help keep the program going, especially since it is a constructive outlet for students in a time when their community is dealing with a large heroin epidemic.

“Sports is a way for us to build character and to keep people and children off drugs,” Anderson said.

Lone programThe M-W hockey program is the last varsity hockey team in the section and the only one left in the county. With home ice in Newburgh and the majority of the team’s opponents in Westchester and Rockland counties, the 22-player squad travels more than most.

Hockey mom Beth Urtz, said she was elated when she found out the hockey program was here to stay, and that her son will have the opportunity to play his senior year as a Crusader.

“He’s got the opportunity to mentor to the younger players and you know bring them through just the way that he’s been brought through for the last three years,” Urtz said.

“There’s so many things that these kids learn from playing hockey. They learn teamwork, they learn leadership skills, they learn healthy competition. And it does keep them off the streets and they’re doing something constructive.”

Fund raiserTo celebrate, the hockey booster club is holding a pancake breakfast at the Woodbury Commons Applebee’s on Saturday, May 6, at 8 a.m.

Tickets are $6 and all proceeds from the flapjack fund raiser will go to the hockey program.

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