By Jim den Hollander
One of my goals in starting Sauk Hockey is to celebrate the game locally. In fact, that is my primary goal, my main goal, maybe my only goal.
In other words, I am not looking for any ‘scoops’ or trying to uncover any scandals. I see a lot of hockey websites out there now, particular in the junior field, that have a clear mandate, being pro league ‘A’ while bashing league ‘B.’
I spent nearly three decades as a sports reporter/editor at weekly, tri-weekly and daily newspapers and a little more time at a magazine. I always hated the controversial stuff. Maybe that made me a bad reporter. I have to say, I did enjoy getting the scoop on competitor publications but I was mostly about sharing facts, scores, stats and good news.
To that end, I scrapped a planned story on the dissolution of the South Central Cyclones. I interviewed representatives of Baraboo, Reedsburg and Wisconsin Dells youth hockey organizations and of course, I ended up with three different views. I put off doing the story and ultimately scrapped it. Instead of bemoaning the end of the Cyclones, I have decided to embrace the return of Baraboo T-Birds and RWD Youth Hockey and the return of the rivalry to the youth level. If you have seen an RWD vs. Baraboo-Portage varsity game in the past 10 seasons, you know, that is an awesome rivalry.
I loved the Cyclones. When the group started three seasons ago, I was excited about seeing our players get a chance to practice and play with others at their own level of competition.
The first season was great too as the Cyclones held their own with programs from Janesville, McFarland and Oregon.
I remember having a conversation with someone who I respect a great deal early on about the program. That person was not a fan of the co-operative effort and I absolutely was. They wondered why it became necessary as, at one time all three communities had healthy youth programs and now needed to rely on each other.
That stayed with me because I thought it was a very good point. There is no doubt, at least in the area (Dells/Delton) I am most familiar with – numbers are down in the past decade or so. I don’t need access to registration figures to see that.
Numbers are down in general for a lot of sports in the Dells community, I mean, there are less students than there was 20 years ago and I am not sure what the reason is for that – And the purpose of my rant here is not really to go into detail on that.
All I am saying is — my mandate since I moved here many years ago has always been to try to make the sport more popular in the community. It is just such a great game; I want more people to enjoy it. When I moved here, I had a hard time dealing with the fact there were many out there that didn’t really care about the game. I just couldn’t understand it and I always felt that if someone were to be around the game for a while, they would fall in love with it.
I know now, hockey is not for everyone and I have (begrudgingly) accepted that fact.
But I still want to promote this game as much as I can. If it is hockey and its in Sauk County, I want to use this platform to promote it, making people aware and hopefully, excited about it.
One thing that the dissolving of the Cyclones has done is created – at least for the male players – a direct feeder system from mite to varsity – with RWD (Reedsburg/Wisconsin Dells), Baraboo/Portage and Sauk Prairie as the beneficiaries. For the females, the Badger Lightning is now the lone team in the area. All three organizations are feeding into the Lightning. Based on the success of the Sauk Prairie Monkeys and Badger Lightning organizations, in particular at the younger levels, the varsity Lightning could be heading into some great seasons down the road.
The opportunity is there for youngsters – This season, no less than four players with local ties will begin freshman seasons at NCAA Division 3 schools which they will represent on the ice.
Their accomplishments and the success of a revitalized Dells Ducks junior hockey team will hopefully work hand in hand with the varsity programs to make more and more youngsters ask for skates this Christmas.
— This is the first of many opinion columns from Jim den Hollander who hopes to turn Saukhockey.info into a source of information and entertainment for hockey fans in Sauk County.