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TI and Alexandria boys and girls varsity hockey programs could merge

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A proposed merger of Thousand Islands Central and Alexandria Central school districts’ girls and boys varsity hockey programs could ease the financial burden of participating on the girls’ team.

Up until now, to participate in the girls hockey program, parents were required to make a $700 contribution for each player in addition to raising funds throughout the year.

Boys varsity hockey coach Joe Eppolito said the annual budget for the merged “Islanders” program would likely be under $48,000 and each school district and the minor hockey association would contribute in equal amounts.

Remaining costs would still have to be covered through fundraising, Eppolito said.

“Whatever we do with boys and girls’ programs, they need to be absolutely equal,” said Thousand Islands Central Superintendent Frank House.

Despite the long-standing rivalry, the boys varsity teams — Alexandria’s Purple Ghosts and TI’s Vikings — were merged in 2011 and renamed the “Islanders” in response to tough economic times and dwindling number of hockey players.

Last season, there were 26 boys playing for the Islanders and 17 players on the Purple Ghosts girls’ hockey team.

Alexandria Superintendent Robert Wagoner Jr. said the two districts have worked well together and that the school board is expecting to learn more about the proposed merger of the girls varsity program at its next regular board meeting.

Alexandria’s Board of Education next meets on Oct. 22 and Thousand Islands’ next school board meeting is Oct. 15.

Eppolito said he will put together a preliminary budget for the merged varsity hockey program and hopes that the two school boards will support the proposal.

“The highest level they’ll probably ever play in is high school level. And we want them to have a great experience,” Eppolito said.

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