Ice Time: The fight for new hockey programs in Bismarck

National Sports

Currently, the Bismarck Public School System has three hockey programs, but there are talks of adding two additional teams. That would bring the total to five, but one of the main issues would be how to allocate practice time.

Right now, BPS and the Bismarck Parks and Rec partner to accommodate ice time for all schools, but there are only four sheets of ice in Bismarck.

Adding a new hockey program was a topic of discussion at the latest Bismarck Public School Board meeting. When Legacy opened in 2014, hockey was the only varsity sport the Sabers did not have. Now player projections based off the participation numbers of the Bismarck Hockey youth program present by the athletic department say a new team could come in the 2020-2021 school year. Based on the same projections, the athletic department also presented the idea of adding an additional girls team in the 2021-2022 school year.

“It’s a community issue,” says Bismarck Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Hornbacher. “It’s one of those things where you really need to address this holistically as a community and so we’re looking at that.”

Bismarck Parks & Recreation says putting together the practice and game schedule is like a big jigsaw puzzle, balancing numerous teams and programs throughout the week, while sharing only four rinks in the city limits.

“If we can find the space for them, we’re going to do that,” Bismarck Parks & Rec Facilities Director Kevin Klipfel says. “We’ve worked with the school district and all of our user groups for many years and our job is to provide ice time or tennis court time or whatever it is, that’s our job.”

However, the practice times could become extreme. Programs might have to wake up as early 5:30 AM or as late as 10:30 PM. Adding a program at Legacy and an additional girls team would create three separate teams when you add in a varsity and junior varsity on the boys’ side. The district knows it’s a delicate balance.

“More opportunity for more kids,” says Hornbacher. “We’ve always been about that. But we also need to make sure that of the whole process so, involving community members in what their take is on this.”

One solution down the road would be to add hockey as a class. Another solution is adding facilities. The Parks and Rec department is working on a plan that could make a new rink a possibility down the road.

“The next steps of the board will be looking at the potential of looking at a feasibility from the recreation department which could include a multitude of things, which our ice could definitely be a part of,” says Klipfel.

Hockey supporters say the sport is growing in the community. The question is if those numbers will stick once they get to the high school level.

“I think hockey or activities is definitely something that we have in schools and we’re a major player in that,” Hornbacher says. “We like to provide opportunities for our kids, but these are activities that are really community based.”

Superintendent Jason Hornbacher said no vote is imminent. He said the next steps are to create a frequent asked question fact sheet which list out the facts of what the administration knows and they also want to get the communities ideas on adding a team.

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