About 60 people came to the auditorium at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River last Wednesday night for an informational meeting about the future of the girls high school hockey program.

Information was compiled and shared by Pines Activities Director Josh Tilley after he was contacted by administrators from schools that form the Northern Edge co-op, including Rhinelander, Lakeland and Antigo.

Tilley opened the meeting with a presentation listing individual concerns, the steps in the process of forming or adding to a co-op team, and future projections of program participation at Pines.

“I am not on one side or the other right now,” said Tilley. “I’m just getting information and listening to your input. It’s a big concern. I thank the three girls who came down from Upper Michigan to play. If they hadn’t, our numbers would be even worse right now.”

Counting those three players, the Pines girls hockey roster currently stands at 15. Participation projections are for 15, 14 and 17 players over the next three years. However, the number goes up to 23 in the 2026-’27 school year and stays in the low 20s for another three years.

Northland Pines could enter into a standard two-year co-op agreement with schools like Antigo and Lakeland. Those schools project to have only one girls hockey player each next season.

“I’m just a little concerned that if we let everyone combine, that when the time comes we’re actually going to be kicking girls to the curb,” said Nicole Ray, team manager for the Eagle River U12 girls team.

Tilley responded. “We would have to tell them we’re giving them two more years of skate time, but we can’t promise you anything after that,” said Tilley.

Tilley explained that when teams become part of a co-op, a new name is chosen for that team and games are generally rotated around the home rinks of the teams in the co-op.

“If the team is not based in Eagle River, I think the number of girls in the program would dwindle dramatically,” said Ray. “Ten years ago, the girls said they would rather play short-handed and lose every game than co-op. They wanted to be Pines Eagles.”

There were others at the meeting that favored going with a co-op team, at least in the short term.

“It was good to see what the talk is about and good to see that nothing is set in stone,” said Northland Pines girls hockey coach Andrea Harman. “You are seeing the community come together again. I feel for girls hockey it hasn’t been like that for a few years. It’s really heartwarming to see the support.”

Tilley felt everyone at the meeting wants what’s best for the players and the girls program.

“I think we have help in many areas,” he said. “From the administration. From parents. From coaches and players. I think people are a lot more acceptable than when they walked in here.”

It was requested that Tilley gather more information, including participation numbers from previous years at Northland Pines and other districts, and hold another informational meeting in February. Anyone with questions or input about the future of Northland Pines High School girls hockey can call Tilley at the high school at 715-479-4473. When the prompt comes up, press 4.