For the love of the game

Ice hockey: When Long Reach junior Nicole Modeen wanted to cheer her high school team and discovered it didn't have one, she took matters into her own hands: She established one.

High Schools

February 12, 2002|By Mike Frainie | Mike Frainie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's understandable that Nicole Modeen takes a special interest in the hockey program at Long Reach. It's her team. Literally.

It all started last year, when Modeen went to a Howard County league game to see a friend play for Oakland Mills. She had never seen a hockey game, but took to the sport immediately. She was interested in following the Long Reach team, but was told there was none. Modeen wanted to change that.

"I thought it was kind of cool," said Modeen, a junior. "When they told me that Long Reach didn't have a hockey team, I decided to make one."

The first thing she did was to talk to members of Long Reach's athletic department. They explained that hockey in the county is a club sport and not sanctioned by the school or the county. They told her that they admired her effort, but they doubted the interest was there to start a team.

Modeen wasn't about to give up. She canvassed the halls of the 6-year old school, posting fliers about an organizational meeting and asking if there was enough interest to form a hockey team. She collected about 45 names -- mostly boys but some girls -- who wanted to play.

At about this same time, Jesse Chancellor became curious. He severs as the manager of the Howard Huskies, a hockey club team that is stocked with Howard County players. The thought of having a hockey team at Long Reach had crossed his mind because Jay, his son, is a student there. He heard about the meeting and decided to attend.

"There were all these rumors floating around about someone wanting to start a team, but no one knew who was behind it," Chancellor said. "I walked in and sat down, and in strolled Nicole. She ran the meeting with such confidence that I volunteered to help. It's hard to say no when she comes in with the guns blazing and her charm attack."

Modeen then phoned Ryan Donahue, an officer of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League. "I asked him what we had to do to form a hockey team," she said. "They sent me some information, and I started filling out the paperwork."

Lightning Inc.

High school hockey is not like other sports. Participating teams have to buy time at local ice rinks for both practices and games. More funds are needed for things like jerseys and other equipment. Chancellor estimates the budget of a high school hockey program at approximately $7,000 a season.

Deep desire -- and deep pockets -- are required by students who want to play. Long Reach charges its players $350 each to participate. Since hockey is not a sanctioned varsity sport in Howard County, the school board will not contribute money. Although she did have the blessing of Long Reach principal Dave Bruzga, the school also did not contribute funds. The burden fell on Modeen. She decided to try many of the local businesses in the area as sources for funding.

When she'd ask many of them, they were willing to give something, but they wanted to know what her tax ID number was. It was then that Chancellor, who is a banker, came up with the idea of incorporating the team.

"We incorporated as a non-stock, nonprofit," Chancellor said. "We filled out IRS form 501(c)3, which allows us to be a charitable organization. That way, donations are tax-deductible."

"We spent a lot of time trying to get the paperwork done," Modeen said. "My mother is an accountant, and my friend's mother is a lawyer. Both of them and Mr. Chancellor helped me."

Slowly but surely, the funds started building, and it became apparent that -- at least from a financial standpoint -- hockey could work at Long Reach. Everything was moving along well, but it was now August, two months before the first practice. The team still didn't have a coach.

Coach wanted

As the summer began to fade, even Modeen -- the eternal optimist -- was beginning to worry.

"That's the one point where I began to get discouraged," she said. "We couldn't find a coach, and I didn't know where to turn."

In desperation, Modeen called the MSHL and asked if it knew someone who would want to coach the team. The league didn't, but promised it had an advertisement of the MSHL Web site. As luck would have it, John Poisal was checking the site. Poisal coaches Mount St. Joseph's Tier II team, and the ad caught his eye.

"I was very comfortable at Mount St. Joe, but the thought of building a program from the ground up was too good of a challenge to pass up," Poisal said. Poisal set up a meeting with Modeen and Chancellor.

At this juncture, Modeen surprised Chancellor again.

"We sit down for the meeting, and I'm ready to hire him on the spot," Chancellor said. "But she interviewed him. She told him what her philosophy was, and that everyone should play. That impressed me."

Poisal couldn't help but be impressed, too. "I'm driving to the meeting thinking about all the things that have to be done in a very short time for Long Reach to have a team: registration forms, ice time, scheduling. She hands me a file, and it's already done."

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