The high school ice hockey season arrived last week, and with it came controversy.
The issue that created headlines involved Shelby Herrington, a junior at Bishop Brady High School in Concord. Herrington has played varsity hockey for Bishop Brady's boys team the last two years, and intended to do so this season as well. Bishop Brady formed a cooperative girls hockey team with Trinity High School in Manchester this year, however, and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association declared Herrington ineligible to play for the boys team.
Herrington challenged that decision and a court order allowed her to begin the season with the boys team. A final ruling on whether or not the NHIAA is within its rights to prevent Herrington from playing with the boys team is expected later this month.
Robert Carey, Herrington's attorney, has argued that the NHIAA is attempting to deny Herrington a spot on the boys team solely on the basis of her sex.
If the court rules in Herrington's favor there is concern that other talented girls will attempt to play for boys teams – thereby weakening the girls sport -- and that some boys may even attempt to skate with the girls.
According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, NHIAA executive director Patrick Corbin sent a letter to Bishop Brady that included the following:
“If a sport is offered for boys and a comparable sports is offered for girls, then the girls must play on the team of their gender. There is no consideration or provision that accounts for competitiveness or ability in the by-laws.”
Another female, Danielle DiCesare, played for the St. Thomas Aquinas (Dover) boys team in 2007-08, the first season the NHIAA offered girls hockey as a varsity sport. DiCesare women's college hockey at Princeton.
FOOTBALL CHANGES SHAPE
New Hampshire high school football will have a different look next season, when the state will scrap the six-division format that has been used for years and place its 57 varsity teams in three divisions.
Eight teams from each division will qualify for postseason play, which will create an additional round of playoffs. Four teams from each of the six divisions advanced to the playoffs last season.
Critics of the old alignment argued that there was no need for six divisions – and six state champions – in a state the size of New Hampshire.
“We already have teams that are not very happy with it, but we have to give something a shot here,” said Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan, who is a member of the NHIAA football committee. “Hopefully it works out well. We have a lot more flexibility with it. Maybe we'll have to tweak it a little, but I think it's good that we're trying something.”
Student-athletes transferring from one school to another is not uncommon, but in no sport has player movement been the major focus of a season preview as it is in high school basketball.
Guard Dimitri Floras returned from prep school (Kimball Union Academy) to lead Merrimack to the Division I boys basketball championship last season. If the Tomahawks win another title in 2012-13 they'll have to do it without Floras, who is now suiting up for Vermont Academy.
Although Manchester Central is the consensus favorite in Division I, Merrimack's backcourt will make life tough on Merrimack opponents. Sophomore point guard Austin Franzen has transferred from Bishop Guertin and will team with junior Eric Gendron to form one of the best guard combinations in the state.
ANOTHER TITLE IN THE CARDS?
Bishop Guertin of Nashua won last year's Division I girls basketball state title, and the Cardinals entered this season as the overwhelming favorite as well.
BG returned five starters from its 2011-12 championship team, including junior point guard Jamie Afterburner and Boston University-bound forward Meghan Green.
BG opened its season with a 91-36 victory over Salem. Last year's championship was the school's first in girls basketball.
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.