Hockey players from Old Believer villages

Недавно по телевидению прошла передача о старообрядцах Аляски, подготовленная командой Боба Дотсона. Один из ее подзаголовков был «Замороженные во времени» (Frozen in time). Журналист Аарон Селбиг откликнулся на нее своей статьей «Frozen out», в которой рассказывает о молодых хоккеистах из старообрядческой молодежи Аляски. Эту статью мы предлагаем вниманию наших читателей.

Homer News, Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Frozen out

Hockey players from Old Believer villages face tough decisions if they want to stay in the game

By Aaron Selbig
Staff Writer 

Derek Martushev, captain of the Homer High hockey team, doesn’t actually go to Homer High.

Martushev, a tall, quiet 17-year-old who grew up playing hockey with several other kids from his Russian Old Believer village of Voznesenka, ran into a roadblock when he reached ninth grade. If you go to a small school like Voznesenka, according to Alaska School Activities Association rules, you can’t play hockey for a large school like Homer High.

Photographer: Aaron Selbig, Homer News
Derek Martushev, left, wins a faceoff during a Nov. 21 game against Houston at Kevin Bell Arena.

With no hockey program available, Martushev was forced to leave Voznesenka School if he wanted to keep playing. He and his parents chose instead to enroll him in Connections, a home-schooling program offered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

«I love hockey and that’s the only reason I went to Connections,» said Martushev, who every day travels more than 50 miles back and forth between Voznesenka and Homer to hockey practice.

The Connections program allows Martushev to jump through a loophole in the rules. ASAA, the governing body for high school athletics statewide, allows home-schooled students to choose a school affiliation for purposes of extracurricular activities, but prevents students of small schools like Voznesenka, which presently offers only wrestling for boys and no athletic opportunities for girls, from playing sports for larger schools.

«I think it is terrible,» said Martushev. «There’s lots of guys at Voznesenka School who want to play hockey. They are so disappointed that they can’t play for Homer.»

About a year ago, a collection of school officials, parents and local hockey supporters organized to try to coax ASAA to grant a waiver to student athletes in Voznesenka, and the neighboring villages of Razdolna and Kachemak-Selo, to play hockey for Homer High.

They elected local hockey mom Kim Duggar to lead the charge.

Duggar spent the next several months calling and e-mailing officials with ASAA and KPBSD, trying to sort through complex regulations and bureaucratic red tape in order to bring the Russian kids in.

In April, she flew with Homer Hockey Association president Cinda Eckert to Petersburg, where ASAA held its spring meeting.

There, Duggar and Eckert formally submitted an application, signed by the principals of all three village schools and Homer High, to form a «cooperative team.»

«The Russians have become a significant part of the Homer hockey program core,» the application stated. «It is a personal loss to the athletes who have trained and excelled for years in this sport to be shut out, and it is a loss for HHS as they are part of the developmental athlete base. We are asking you to understand the unique make-up of this community.»

Duggar returned to Homer hopeful that a solution could be found.

«They were warm, friendly and receptive to the proposal,» she said of the ASAA board. «They only wanted it to be presented by the school district.»

And that’s where the effort ran into a hurdle.

KPBSD administration officials, led by Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones, presented the idea to the school board at its Oct. 2 meeting in Homer. A few weeks later, the board announced it had made its decision — it would not ask ASAA for a waiver on behalf of the Russian players.

«This is a deal where ASAA has rules that govern who can play and how they can play,» said Jones. «What people need to understand is this situation is not unique to Homer and it carries statewide ramifications. We’ve tried to explain to all the people involved that, if we asked for an exception to be made, there would be requests from all across the state, in all sports and from all kinds of small schools.»

ASAA Executive Director Gary Matthews said although current ASAA rules prohibit a cooperative arrangement between Homer High and the Russian schools, a waiver could be approved by the board, but only if it was first presented by KPBSD.

«It needs to be worked through the system,» Matthews said. «I thought there was going to be a request but the district didn’t come forth with one. The board hasn’t had a chance to talk about it.»

According to Matthews and Jones, there are three possibilities for Russian hockey players to play for Homer under current rules.

First, they could do as Martushev has done and enroll in the Connections home-schooling program.

Second, they could switch schools to Homer High.

Finally, the three village schools could form their own cooperative team amongst themselves, pooling their potential players and resources. ASAA rules prohibit larger schools like Homer High, which is classified as a 4-A school, from doing this, but allow smaller 1-A and 2-A schools like Voznesenka to do so when no other alternative exists.

That last option is unrealistic, said Duggar.

«They don’t have enough students and they have absolutely no athletic facilities out there,» she said.

Kachemak-Selo’s total high school student population is 20 and Voznesenka, the largest of the three schools, has only 15 boys in its high school grades.

Another issue, according to Matthews and Jones, is the potential for the Homer High hockey team to create an unfair advantage through the recruitment of Russian players.

«The reason that the ASAA regulations are drafted the way they are is to prevent the forming of ‘superteams,'» said Jones. «That’s the reason they don’t allow the larger schools to co-op with the smaller schools.»

Homer High Hockey Coach Buck Laukitis, who supports the idea of letting the Russian athletes in, said his team is already at the bare minimum number of players — 18 — and has not won a conference game in two seasons.

«It’s not like all the good players coming up are Russians, its just that we need every kid who skates locally in the rink to skate for us in high school,» he said.

Duggar promised to keep fighting for the Russian athletes, even if it means filing a lawsuit to resolve the issue.

«I care about this because I’ve seen the dedication and the love of the sport from these Russian families,» she said. «The friendships and the camaraderie that we’ve all gained from sharing this with them has spread into the community. They are ignorant of political processes and they don’t understand why their students can’t play. It just doesn’t seem fair.»

Meanwhile, Derek Martushev’s younger brother Zenon, a wrestler for the Voznesenka team who qualified for the state wrestling tournament earlier this month, is faced with his own difficult choice. He loves hockey, too, and is considering enrollment in Connections next year so he can join his brother on the Mariners hockey team.

The only problem is ASAA rules would prevent him from participating at two different schools.

«I told him straight up you only get one chance in your life to play high school hockey,» said Derek Martushev. «Maybe next year they will change the rule.»

http://www.homernews.com/stories/121708/news_1_004.shtml

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