The current model isn’t sustainable, so the Faribault girls hockey team is hitting the reset button.
After last year’s six-player senior class graduated, the Falcons are entering this season with only eight skaters and one goalie out for this season. With those numbers, trying to play a varsity schedule wasn’t realistic, so Faribault will sponsor only a junior varsity squad this winter.
Throughout the year, Faribault coach Mike Dietsch said he will turn his players this year into the catalyst to grow the numbers and roster sizes for future teams.
“I want to use hockey as the vehicle to teach life lessons, and one of the things I really want to develop with these girls is self empowerment, self confidence and self development,” Dietsch said. “During our virtual season, I brought in several local businesswomen to come in and talk to the girls. I think the more girls that are having a positive experience, we’ll use them as our best recruiters to get other girls.”
This season will be different than last year, when the Falcons finished third in the Big 9 Conference and advanced to the Section 1A final.
Instead of stressing on-ice results, Dietsch will be emphasizing maximizing the enjoyment his players glean this winter and working to build a culture for the program that attracts players of all ages to Faribault Ice Arena.
“Hopefully we can get the message spread around the community that Faribault High School girls hockey is pretty fun to watch, they’re having a great time with,” Dietsch said. “We’re going to try and do as much off the ice and outside of the rink to make sure they do have a great time and do spread that word.
“It just happens to be the greatest game on Earth,” Dietsch added. “There’s so many things that I’ve learned, people I’ve gotten to know, places that I’ve gotten to go to because of hockey. I just want to use hockey as that vehicle to help girls self empower themselves.”
In the spring, there were talks of Faribault joining a co-op with Northfield at the high school level in anticipation of the steep numbers drop entering this season. Ultimately, those talks stalled during the summer, leaving a JV-only schedule as the only viable option this year.
As of Monday, Faribault is set to play a 12-game junior varsity schedule, starting with a home game Jan. 16 against Owatonna. In addition to a handful of Big 9 Conference opponents, the Falcons will also play the JV squads from St. Peter, Dodge County and New Prague.
“We’re going to try and make it as positive experience as we can,” Dietsch said. “Is playing junior varsity a bad thing? No. We want this to be a positive experience. It wouldn’t be fun to go play some of these communities and get beaten 15-0 or 15-3 or whatever the score would be. That’s not a positive experience for anybody. Playing a junior varsity schedule I think is actually going to be a very positive experience for these girls.”