Travel has been a lot easier this winter for South Burlington High School Principal Patrick Burke.
Burke was a busy hockey parent and fan last season, spending time at rinks watching the Rebels’ girls team and the Mount Mansfield girls hockey team, the squad on which his daughter, Molly, played.
This season has been easier on Burke with the teams from South Burlington and Mount Mansfield forming the first co-op team in Chittenden County. The two schools decided to form merge this fall because neither program could field a full girls varsity team.
“Girls hockey is still a developing sport so anytime we can save these programs I’m happy,” said Burke, a longtime hockey coach. “I’m happy that there is a long-range plan. If either school had dropped the program, it would be hard to get it back.”
An added personal benefit for Burke and his daughter Molly, a sophomore, is that, for probably the only time in Molly’s high school career, the two are on the same side.
“He would always root for me, but he also rooted for South Burlington,” Molly Burke said.
Burke said that the co-op team has cut down the number of hockey games he’s been to in half and now he doesn’t spend all his time on his phone, looking for updates on the game he was not attending.
“I’m pretty fiercely loyal to the Rebels, so it’s been interesting,” Pat Burke said. “Molly spent the first 10 years of her life thinking she was going to play for the Rebels, it’s an interesting happenstance.”
The circumstances that forced the two team to combine and allowed the Burkes a rare opportunity to be on the same team emerged before the beginning of the season when it became clear Mount Mansfield did not have enough players for a team.
South Burlington, which knew that it would be short players at the end of last season, had offered a co-op opportunity to anyone interested and the Cougars took the school up on the offer. Principal Burke said he did not have a direct role in forming the co-op.
“The ADs … put the whole thing together,” he said.
Molly Burke said the transition was smooth.
“It’s a really great opportunity to connect within schools and do something we all love,” Molly Burke said. “It’s been awesome, everyone is having a great time. It’s just an awesome group of girls to be skating with and I’m really glad that I had this opportunity.”
The team took a few weeks to gel as players from two different schools got to know each other, but the MMU-SBHS co-op team has really started to find its rhythmand has not lost in four straight games.
“We really want to compete a really high level,” Molly Burke said. “We know that we could beat some of the top teams. We think we are right up there. It’s a great opportunity to be successful. It was a little awkward at first because no one knew each other, but once we got to know each other, we realized it was awesome.”
While the team has gotten comfortable with each other on and off the ice, the MMU-SBHS co-op is only a one year agreement, with both programs expecting numbers to climb high next season.
While Burke knows that next season he will be back to a girls hockey merry-go-round, for know he is just enjoying the opportunity to cheer for both his daughter and his school.
“I think this will be a special year in the end,” Pat Burke said. “I think when we look back that it will be special for her.”