LP basketball, hockey gearing up for a season

News photo — Lou Reuter Lake Placid’s Deidra Kellerman takes aim at the basket during a girls high school varsity game a season ago at Saranac Lake. Also pictured for Lake Placid is Arnita Cecunjanin. The Blue Bombers girls and boys baskeball teams, as well as the school’s combined hockey team, start a one-month long condensed season with opening practices on March 1.

LAKE PLACID — Basketball and hockey seasons that looked like they may not happen now appear to be drawing nearer for the high school teams at Lake Placid.

The Blue Bombers boys and girls basketball teams are scheduled to begin practicing on Monday. So are the ice hockey squads, which are combined teams with student-athletes from Saranac Lake.

Hockey has proved to be trickier because the boys and girls play on combined teams consisting of student-athletes from different school districts located in two different counties. Lake Placid is located in Essex County and the Saranac Lake school district lies mainly in Franklin County, and both counties have some different COVID-19 regulations for allowing high-risk sports to proceed.

The Saranac Lake Placid hockey teams faced another obstacle, too: They didn’t have a home rink for practice or possible games. During recent seasons, the two home rinks for the teams have been the Saranac Lake Civic Center and the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, but neither venue will be available for use.

The Saranac Lake Civic Center never opened this winter, and there will be no ice down on any of the Olympic Center’s three rinks starting in early March due to the replacement of the refrigeration system.

But it looks like the Tupper Lake Central School District has stepped in to help by providing ice time for practices at the civic center in that village.

Despite the challenges, athletic directors from both school districts are optimistic that a shortened winter season stretching through the month of March will take place.

“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, but we’ll get it done,” Lake Placid Director of Athletics John Burdick said. “The are some challenges still in front of us, but hopefully we can make this happen and give them a few games in the later half of March and call it a lucky season that a not a lot of people expected to happen.”

Just being able to get to the stage of scheduling practices required approvals from the state level down. A go-ahead from Gov. Andrew Coumo came first, and later, the health departments from Essex and Franklin counties approved high-risk sports. Both school boards also have to give their nods to move forward. Lake Placid’s board approved high-risk sports to take place by a 5-1 vote at its monthly meeting on Feb. 16.

Only varsity teams at Lake Placid will have basketball seasons this winter.

“There’s a lot going into this,” Burdick said. “The biggest thing is even though it’s going to be a short season, we just wanted to give this experience to those who are running out of time, especially the seniors.”

In addition to adding the higher-risk sport of basketall and ice hockey, Lake Placid has been running its Nordic and alpine skiing programs since December. Unlike hockey and basketball, those are deemed by the state to be lower-risk sports. The Blue Bombers have been competing in Nordic skiing with meets solely against Saranac Lake. Lake Placid’s alpine season has consisted of only in-team training sessions.