Winter sports at high schools in Michigan started back up for the first time since March 2020. After months of thinking what could have been, the Trenton Trojans hockey team gears up for another run at a state championship.
Trenton High School is home to a hockey program full of tradition. Many of the community members consider the hockey season as their favorite time of year, and the Kennedy Recreation Center is a popular spot on nights when the Trojans are playing.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a “state of disaster” in Michigan on April 2, 2020. The following day, the Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled that all remaining winter sports would be cancelled.
High school sports had been suspended for just over three weeks and there was an uncertainty about what the outcome would be. For Trenton, this was devastating news.
The Trojans were set to play in the semi-finals of the state tournament against Hartland, a team who had beaten them the previous two seasons in the state finals.
“It was tough,” said head coach Chad Clements. “But you gotta trust that the state and the health department are doing the right thing.”
Senior and captain of this year’s team Caleb Kneiding said, “I know in a lot of our guys’ minds we were the best team last year.”
The return to play
After almost an entire calendar year removed from the initial postponement of the 2020 season, governor Whitmer announced that the 2021 seasons for contact sports could start on Feb. 8.
Kneiding said that the team’s reaction to the news was “pure joy.” He said that it felt like a weight was being lifted off their shoulders, and it was a chance at redemption.
Clements said, “These kids need to play: Socially, emotionally, and for the love of the game.”
Although the season is shortened, it will be a very busy stretch for the Trojans. There are 16 scheduled games between Feb. 10 and March 12.
Hard work is not going to be limited to the ice and the weight room for Trenton hockey this season. In order for the season to continue and finish, the coaches and student athletes will have to follow many of the new protocols put forth by the state and the MHSAA.
“We are putting the trust in the players, not only when they are at the rink, but when they are outside the rink,” said Clements. He said that the coaches have to trust that the players are not going to gatherings where they are not wearing masks or properly socially distancing.
Kneiding said that following the rules from the state is a “main priority” with the coaches. “We know how it feels in the past when we didn’t do anything wrong and it got taken away, so we are doing everything in our power to make sure that we are going to be able to play this year,” he said.
Masks are mandatory and need to be worn by players, coaches, and officials during every practice and game, according to the MHSAA. If rapid testing becomes available to the Trojans, players who test negative on game days will still be required to wear a mask.
“We are going to take this very very serious,” said Clements, “so that the safety is first and foremost of all of our players.”