BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — The representatives for the Bay Reps will come from a more diverse area after the hockey co-op team expanded its reach by adding four more schools.
The Bay Reps brought on Glen Lake, Kingsley, Buckley and Leland to expand to nine schools and become the state's largest co-op hockey team.
Previously, the Reps drew players from Traverse City St. Francis, Elk Rapids, Suttons Bay, Kalkaska and Mancelona.
"It's going to be good," Reps coach Todd Spaulding said. "Our tryout numbers have never been very big since I've been here. I think maybe roughly 27 usually. Twenty-eight has been the most in my three years. This should help us get us up the that 30 mark or above. Any time you can get more kids, it should help our program for sure."
Some of the top Warriors players who would be eligible include goaltender Luke Somsel (Buckley), forwards Ryan French (Kingsley) and Chase Joppich (Kingsley) and defenders Trevor Apsey (Glen Lake), John Van Raalte (Leland) and Scott Fisher (Kingsley). Six other Warriors players graduated after last season, and two were from the other schools that didn't join the Reps.
"It's good to have kids who have had a year or two of high school competition under their belt," Spaulding said. "That's a bonus to get some experience there that will surely help."
Adding Leland also puts the Reps in the mix for the sons of former Detroit Red Wings forward Dallas Drake.
"Kingsley has a ton of kids playing hockey in their lower (age) levels," St. Francis athletic director Tom Hardy said. "I expect them to put the Reps in a good position of being a strong program from a numbers perspective. Last year, there were 28 kids who tried out for the team and 22 were on the team. Although that's good, it's not great. We're competing, even with schools like (TC) Central and West, who have 50 kids trying out for a team — and that's what level you want to get to."
When the Warriors disbanded, Hardy sent letters to the athletic directors of all eight schools that were part of the co-op to see if they would be interested in joining the Reps.
"We knew there were schools that still had kids looking to play the game," Hardy said. "To be proactive for our program, we reached out to those schools. Our biggest goal was to make sure all those kids had an opportunity to play a sport at their own school to finish out their career.
"We had a one-day meeting where they could all call and have meetings with the five existing Reps (athletic directors) — and the four schools we accepted were the only four that showed up. So I guess either there weren't hockey players around or they didn't want to get involved. I'm not sure the case of those other schools. But we're happy to have the four we have. I think it's great. It should be a step in the right direction and it helps us keep good numbers."
The five Reps' athletic directors accepted the additional schools, and then the MHSAA approved the co-op expansion at their last executive board meeting.
With such a diverse area of players coming together to practice mainly in Traverse City, logistics are a little more difficult, but Spaulding said the additional team depth — as well as allowing some of the former Warriors players to continue playing at the high school level — will be worth it.
"We met with all four schools that applied to us and talked about whether they could make it to practice on time and things like that," Spaulding said. "They were all very supportive of their kids getting there, even if it meant getting out of school a little early or taking an online class for their last hour. They were very helpful to make sure this could work for their kids."
The Reps' tryouts are slated for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Centre ICE.
"Logistically, it'll be tough, but we'll continue to use Centre ICE right in the middle of everybody," Hardy said. "It makes more sense for everybody to come meet in the middle."