‘A form of escape’: Hockey procures hope amidst dark times


Photo courtesy of Jamie Valian

Lenore Ferguson, Staff Writer

Now that winter has come along, bringing the frigid air and heavy snows, one thing the Scotch Plains-Fanwood community can look forward to is the hockey season, both locally and professionally. This year, however, the hockey season looks a little different in order to abide by COVID-19 restrictions. 


Locally, the Raiders have already experienced a delayed, shortened season and the team has had to shut down not once, but twice. 


“It’s unfortunate that my senior season has been affected this way,” Paul Harris, senior varsity hockey goalie said. “At the same time I am still very grateful to be able to have a season because I’ve been playing hockey since I was 7 years old, so the sport is very important to me.”


Prior to their second shutdown, the team was able to play two games, winning both. The Raiders’  first victory came against Dayton on Jan. 22 resulting in a 11-1 victory and the other against West Orange on Jan. 23 winning 6-0. On Feb. 9th, the Raiders return to play Bayonne at 8:35 pm. 


“[The team has] worked very hard and the results have shown now that we have won both games,” Harris said. “ We have had to overcome a lot of adversity and I am very proud of the team and how we have been able to overcome obstacles.”


These victories, however, do not feel the same as the ones in years prior. 


“The atmosphere of the game is not the same without the support of fans [in the stands] live with us,” Lucas Mackey, one of the captains of the team said. “But we have to make do with what we have.”


Despite setbacks, the team remains not only optimistic, but grateful for the time they can spend on the ice. 


“I feel like the gratitude of each player has skyrocketed because for some players, this game is a form of escape,” Mackey said. “I think with the guidance of Coaches Matt Gunther, Matt Giannacio, and Bryan Erndl this town can enjoy its first ever hockey state championship in the near future.” 


While the Raiders use the time on the ice as an opportunity to unplug from the stress of everyday life, fans use watching the game as their escape from life in a pandemic.


Hockey fans across the community and country have feared the worst for this winter season, but many creative ways have been created to watch the game virtually. 


On the local level, Raiders fans can watch the team thanks to Raider News live streaming the games on the Raider News Youtube channel.


Nationwide, hockey fans have been able to watch professional teams play. The National Hockey League made it possible for there to be a season this year by adjusting the rules so each team plays every other team in their division 8 times to limit travel. 


“I love the format of the divisions this year because for the first time in forever there is actually going to be divisional rivalry and incentive to play well due to the shortened season,” senior Jake Fleischer said.  “Every game matters from start to finish and it creates a more competitive environment that creates great hockey.”


Hockey fans across the country are grateful for this hockey season, no matter the challenges faced and those yet to come. In spite of these obstacles, the hockey community has kept a positive and enthusiastic attitude and will continue to do so as the season progresses.