Once again, the Crusaders played a season in
relative anonymity. That's, perhaps, understandable, considering that
Bishop Eustace and St. Augustine Prep field the only two NJSIAA-sanctioned
teams in South Jersey.
Despite the hopes and dreams of ice hockey
proponents in the region, it doesn't seem likely that the sport will be
experiencing a boom soon.
"I've been discussing this with a lot of people,
and money seems to be the sticking point," said second-year Bishop
Eustace Coach Joe Gigantiello. "It's quite an expensive sport to play.
There's the matter of buying the equipment, and the league fees,
referees, ice time fees . . . A lot of schools don't have that kind of
money in their budgets."
According to Gigantiello, similar financial
difficulties don't effect many North Jersey teams.
"A team like Seton Hall has the budget to practice
every day," he said. "I've been told Princeton Day School puts $17,000 a
year into their program. It's a matter of how much effort is put into it
and how much they want to spend."
Bishop Eustace helps defray some of the cost to the
school by requiring players to supply their own equipment. The school
pays other fees -- buses, ice time, league fees, etc. -- but other
districts have been reluctant to take even the smallest steps toward
absorbing such a financial burden.
"To take on a hockey team to please 30 people, they
don't think it's worth the expense," Gigantiello said.
Despite the the difficulties, however, it should be
noted that some schools in the area do have club teams. And others are
still considering the prospect of officially adding hockey.
Discussions have been held at Washington Township,
for example, but proposals have yet to pass the budget.
Meanwhile, teams like Bishop Eustace and St.
Augustine have no choice but to do a lot of traveling in order to
"And it puts a big strain on our team," said
Gigantiello. "Our closest game is about an hour away. The closest teams
to us are in the Mercer County Area. Then, there are games in the Brick
Township-Toms River area -- places like that."
In past years, the Crusaders have fared well
playing against that level of competition. But this season -- despite
the presence of high-level goal-scorers such as Ryan Shaw, Bobby
Beauchamp, Raymond Cacia and Anthony Nordo -- the team played to a
"Technically, we're not a bad team," Gigantiello
said. "It's just the level of competition we play. It seems like every
team has been in the top 10."
The addition of a few more teams could ease the
burden. But for now all anybody can do is wait.
Don Benevento covers high school sports for the