Sabers will join with Titans

A Nashua High School North incoming freshman and his mother walked up to Nashua Athletic Director Lisa Gingras during Freshman Night on Tuesday evening with one question.

“Will there be a hockey team next year?” they asked.

Had they asked the question a week ago, Gingras wouldn’t have had the answer. But Tuesday she was able to tell them yes, there will be hockey at Nashua North next winter, as the school and Souhegan High School received approval from the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association to form a co-op team that will compete in Division I.

Gingras said she received verbal approval from NHIAA Executive Director Jeff Collins at the state athletic directors meeting late last week, and was told a letter would be in the mail soon. Souhegan AD Dick Miller said Tuesday he received written confirmation late last week.

“It’s what we wanted,” Miller said, as both the Sabers and Titans were looking at miniscule rosters of 10 or less for next season. “I think it’s great for both schools. I’m looking forward to the challenge of bringing together the two programs.”

Souhegan has been a power more often than not, with four championships in Division III in the last decade. North hasn’t gone past the quarterfinals, but has been a consistent tournament team.

But both schools needed a waiver from the NHIAA because the rule with forming co-op teams is that one school must not have had a program the previous year. That’s why Gingras called it “an uphill battle” two months ago. The NHIAA Classification Committee and the Hockey Committee both had to sign off on it, along with Collins’ approval.

“I’m not sure if it was one thing specifically,” Gingras said. “I think they see the decline in hockey and that a lot of these may come across their desk.”

Now comes the logistical work, not the least of which will be hiring a head coach. Both Souhegan’s Dan Belliveau and North coach Dan Legro have indicated they are interested, so the decision will be an intriguing one.

Gingras and Miller will hold a player-parent meeting, Gingras said, “in the next week or two.” The team will also have a separate nickname and likely different colors. Neither AD has had time to get a plan in place yet as they just received the news.

“There are a lot of little things we have to figure out that are important to the kids,” Gingras said. “Souhegan and North are now joined at the hip in certain areas.”

“We’re moving forward,” Miller said, “to working together.”