The other day I was on the phone with Tim Benz, who is in his first year as Hockey Director in Wilmette. About half way through the conversation Tim says to me, “Tom, is it always this hard?”

This led to a long discussion on the unusual year we are in and trying to run a hockey program. A task that is simple in a normal year is now complicated. In a normal year there is a scheduling meeting and the season is pretty much laid out in front of you. In 2020, scheduling a game is a complex process which typically involves multiple revisions before the game is actually played.

Nothing is simple.

Over the pandemic I have tried to follow what is happening with hockey in some of our neighboring states. My source of information is three websites: Wisconsin Prep Hockey, Minnesota Hockey Hub, and Let’s Play Hockey, a hockey magazine out of Minnesota.

I have always been fond of hockey in Wisconsin. While most of the country has become highly structured (and expensive!), hockey in Wisconsin has retained some of that “Ma and Pa” mentality of youth sports from years ago. That means that volunteers fix the rink, put the ice in, drive the Zamboni, work the concession stand and so on. Programs are not only scattered throughout the state in larger population centers like Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, but small towns like Eagle River, Antigo, and the location of my first “hockey trip” as a coach, Waupun.