Wow, what a day. Connecticut high school sports has its most landmark decision announced and when it happened shockingly I wasn't surprised. Disappointed, frustrated, angry, sure, but not surprised. I mean, we are living in a time where there's a containment zone around New Rochelle, New York and high school hockey games are often postponed for a flurry. So, the news today that the CIAC has decided to cancel all winter sports really didn't shock me.
My initial anger turned rather quickly to utter sadness. You see I got wind of the decision shortly before the CIAC's press conference and I was hoping someone else had it, too. I was hoping this because I simply didn't want to be the person to deliver the news. I like when @CTHSHockey pops up on people's timelines or alerts and it's a feeling of excitement or happiness. I knew that by tweeting today, an entire class of student athletes were going to have their hearts ripped out of their throats. Families, stunned by what many didn't really even consider a possibility.
Much to the chagrin of people reading this, I have forged good relationships with people at the CIAC, not Glenn Lungarini, never met the dude, so I'm not using this platform to trash their decision. Do I agree with it? Absolutely not, but I'm allowed that.
Instead, I'd like to reflect on what this day really made me think about. My Twitter day started watching highlights from Housy's history making upset win over Newington last night. Elliott Polakoff of WFSB did a nice job grabbing highlights from around the state last night and I watched and was so happy for Dean Diamond, a person who I have really come to enjoy over the years doing this. The win couldn't have happened to a better guy and grittier group of kids.
Then, I saw Ben tweet his Bracket Challenge favorites and was surprised by how favored Greenwich was over a senior laden West Haven group. Now, I'll be honest I picked Greenwich, but it wasn't easy. I mean, you had to think a Westie group led by senior guys like Richie Greene and Kaden Morgillo and Kevin Moriarty and Robbie Forleo and Jared Pliszka in net would battle and possibly grab the dub. I then laughed because Prep, New Canaan and Darien were all picked to win in 98-99% of brackets filled out when under 12 hours earlier, aforementioned Housy with a 3% chance to win according to the bracket filler-outers, shocked Newington. Thanks Ben, for putting all the work into that, that you did.
Then, I saw the first sign of trouble. Scott Ericson tweeted "Norwalk schools not allowing fans at games or teams to travel to tournament games." Now, aside from responding "Norwack" or something to that extent, it was one team, one district, no real fear. Minutes later the Rundown began, like any other game day.
The day was starting to have that March tournament feel. People were retweeting, liking, mentioning Rundown tweets and then I got the best one of the day. It was cryptic but I quickly figured out what it meant. Northwest Catholic junior Griffin Macary tweeted "March 10, 2020." The kid who was laid out on a nasty hit from behind was going to make his triumphant return tonight at Darien for the Lions. Absolutely made my day. Then Dave Ruden posted "The CIAC is holding a press conference at 11:30 regarding the continuation of state tournaments" and all hell broke loose.
I began chatting with a few in my inner circle and was able to confirm with multiple credible sources that soon, the CIAC would announce that the winter sports season would be cancelled. I tweeted just prior to the presser. I felt sick and thought about the endless work that goes into a season. The practices at dawn, the pasta dinners and the notion that when these seniors whose teams were still alive, stepped off the ice the last time, maybe at a practice or at a conference tourney game or their last game of the regular season, they expected to be able to lace em up again. It's as heartbreaking of a revelation that I've had in a long time.
Now we see some groups attempting to piece together their own tournaments. We see support from rinks and officials and this should come as no surprise because the resiliency and heart of the Connecticut hockey community is real. We see teams not accepting this as final. I hope they're right. We even have Barstool calling out the CIAC.
The petition started by Jake Walker, former Prep goalie, has reached over 50,000 signatures. I don't know that it'll make a difference and while there's always hope, I'm not confident it'll change anything. But it's telling, that's for sure.
I usually write at the end of each season thanking people but it's being asked of me awfully prematurely, so I may send out more in the future. But thanks as always to my staff for providing excellent coverage and caring so much about these players. Thanks to many, many coaches around the state who have really opened their arms to CTHSHockey often at times, putting aside commentary and critique, understanding our main goal of providing objective and at times brutally honest coverage. Thanks to the parents, well most of them, who should be thought of today as well as the players. Their lives got flipped, too. Finally, thanks to the players. Many have reached out today or yesterday when their seasons were allowed to naturally come to an end and have thanked me. Appreciated but unnecessary.
This is a sad day for winter sports in Connecticut. There is nothing that will change that or alter where this season will always remain in the history of sports in Connecticut. But when all is lost, I want to leave you with this photo, one that was shared with me this afternoon. It's West Haven's seniors, some of the guys I mentioned above, at center ice, at Bennett Rink, after their last practice. Players are heartbroken today and while there's no doubt there's been a lot left on the table and questions linger over where do we go from here, there's one thing abundantly clear... The season may have been taken away from these players, but the bonds and brotherhood forged will last forever. Thanks for letting us, as always, along for the ride.