What was previously announced has now been made official.
There will be another girls hockey team in Bismarck, from next year.
“We had announced the last year we confirmed the numbers and we wanted to secure the numbers for sustainability,” said Bismarck’s sporting director Dave Zittleman. “The numbers are at the point where we should have two teams.”
Despite the decision being made last year, Tim Meyer, head coach of Blizzard over the past decade, said it was not a talk during the season.
“It was never really a discussion within the team,” Meyer said. “Everyone knew there was a possibility that two teams could come at any time, so as for the program, we were focused on the season and did things on a daily basis, and got better on a day – to – day basis.
“I did not have a single girl come up to me about the last year and we did not have conversations about it as a coaching team. It was definitely on people’s minds, but it was never a topic of discussion for us.”
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The two teams are split between Bismarck’s four high schools. One team will feature players from Century and St. Mary’s, the other from Bismarck High and Legacy.
“It was the best fit based on numbers and sustainability,” Zittleman said. “We wanted the numbers to be as even as possible.”
Meyer believes the division will provide an interesting development for the girls who had previously played on the same team while growing up.
“It’s something everyone should look forward to,” Meyer said. “It’s a unique thing to develop a rivalry against children you’ve been playing with since you were young, and it’s definitely benefited the boys’ side, and I think it’s going to be an exciting thing for the girls to be a part of. “
While the decision has been made to split Blizzard into two teams, and the school division also decided, not much else has been decided.
Several upcoming meetings that Zittleman will be involved in will determine a number of issues related to the new teams.
“We have not figured out the team names yet, it will be discussed at a meeting in the near future,” Zittleman said. “We will allow our student-athletes to make recommendations, and we hope to make that decision quickly.”
Fast decision making is partly necessary due to order backlog caused by the pandemic. Zittleman will make sure they have jerseys and equipment on hand for the new team.
Whether a team will keep the Blizzard name, or whether there will be two new names, is among the decisions to be made over the next few months.
Coaching staffs for the new teams are also in the air.
“We want the openings up in a couple of weeks,” Zittleman said. “We are doing our interviews and hope to have a decision on coaches by mid-May.”
While Meyer remains uncertain about his potential role as coach of one of the teams, he hopes to remain as coach if given the opportunity.
“We have not talked about the process yet, but I want to stay involved in coaching for as long as possible,” Meyer said. “I’ve been involved in coaching at Bismarck for about 20 years, and giving back to the program that helped me a long time ago is really special.
“I hope to stay involved.”
What has gone well is the creation of the extra facilities at the VFW Sports Center, which will allow for increased ice age between the many different teams that use the facility, which now includes five high school teams and among others the Bismarck Bobcats.
The upgraded facilities will include an additional ice rink, a concession stand, changing rooms and additional parking, and are on track to be ready for the 2023-24 season.
“We have started the preliminary construction of the new facility,” Zittleman said. “We are working with Bismarck Parks and Rec to build it.”
In the same spirit as Meyer, Zittleman believes the split will provide increased opportunities for Bismarck girls hockey players to get on the ice and enjoy the sport they love.
“We have a good tradition with our schools, and it’s growing,” Zittleman said. “It gives the girls who play hockey something to look forward to and the opportunity for everyone to play hockey. It’s a new opportunity and we hope they enjoy it.”