NEWBURYPORT — They grow up skating on the same sheet of ice and lacing up their skates in the same locker rooms as they rise up through the ranks of their individual youth hockey programs.
But when Newburyport and Triton hockey players reach high school, there’s no rivalry greater than the one that pits the archrivals against one another for superior standing in the Cape Ann League.
Their rivalry goes back decades. But this year, the Clippers and Vikings are setting aside their competitive sides to team up on a campaign to upgrade the locker rooms at the Graf Rink, which coaches of both high school squads say are in dire need of repair.
“Two rivals are coming together for a really good community cause,” Triton varsity hockey coach Drew Wile said. “It’s something that I don’t think has been done.
“Everybody likes to do their football stadiums and individual school things, but this is pretty unusual to have two rivals work together like this.”
Wile and Newburyport varsity hockey coach Paul Yameen, together with a group of volunteers, have spent almost two years reaching out to former players, school alumni and fans in hopes of funding two new state-of-the-art locker rooms that will give each high school team their own digs.
“Currently, the locker room situation at the Graf is inadequate for both teams, especially for the high school,” Yameen said. “We’re looking to build a 20-by-100 locker room and split it in half. Each team will have their own locker room and shower, which will alleviate numerous problems in the rink as well as give our kids a great opportunity to have the type of facility they deserve.”
With participation in both hockey programs at an all-time high, Yameen and Wile believe it’s time the players receive the kind of space enjoyed in the home rinks of other big hockey towns throughout the commonwealth.