After A Marathon Game, Two Hockey Teams Split One Trophy

A high school hockey game in Ohio ended in surprise after seven periods of overtime, when officials called it a tie. Chris Irwin, the athletic director of one of the teams, explains the decision.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

One hundred and one minutes - that's how long the Ohio high school state championship hockey game went on this weekend. Seven overtimes came and went, and the score was still tied 1-1. Players were exhausted, with some drinking Pedialyte to stay hydrated. Finally, state officials and the head coaches agreed to stop the game out of concern for the athletes' safety. They declared both high schools - Sylvania Northview and Cleveland's St. Ignatius - co-state champions.

Chris Irwin is athletic director for Sylvania Northview, and I asked him what he was thinking as that game went on and on.

CHRIS IRWIN: If the game was ever going to end. You know, initially, as you go to the first overtime, second overtime, it's - you're anxious, you're nervous that hopefully, you're the one that scores the goal. But as you get into the fourth, fifth, sixth overtime, you know, we started to question how much longer will we go until, you know, there's a decision on how this game is going to end.

BLOCK: The Northview coach, Mike Jones, said that he had kids who couldn't even walk to the shower, they were that tired.

IRWIN: They were exhausted. They played a lot of minutes. You know, 101 minutes is a lot of minutes to play, and it's just the dehydration possibly setting in. At the end of the day, your body starts to shut down. And you're playing a sport on a hard surface, which is ice. They have weapons or blades on their feet, and you're crashing into some hard boards. Fatigue is going to set in. We definitely did not want a kid get injured. And we wanted every kid to skate off that ice on their own two feet.

BLOCK: And we should explain. There are no shootouts in high school hockey - right? - to end the game; you couldn't go to a shootout.

IRWIN: Correct. The national federation for high schools doesn't have that in their bylaws. You know, I mean, obviously now, we've been talking about a few options, moving forward. So we may have just participated in the longest game in Ohio high school, you know, state championship history because I don't think it'll ever get that far, moving forward.

BLOCK: You think there'll be some changes made?

IRWIN: I would think they'll look at it. We've taken a lot of positive feedback with the decision that we had to make for kids. They are high school kids. But we've also taken some negative feedback. You know, we've - a win at all cost. We want to have a winner. There needs to be a winner. I mean, our kids were fighting for that. They wanted to finish the game on the ice, and I can appreciate that. But you definitely don't want to put their welfare in jeopardy, and putting them out there with the risk of injury.

BLOCK: Well, let me ask you about some of that negative feedback. When that decision was announced to call the game a tie, to stop the overtimes, the St. Ignatius players threw their equipment on the ice. I hear people in the arena were chanting, let them play. I saw a comment from somebody on Twitter saying, now, neither team can honestly say they won states because they didn't win the game, robbing kids of one of the best days of their lives. What do you think of that criticism?

IRWIN: Sure. A lot of emotions were going through the stands in addition to - in the locker room and, you know, like you mentioned, St. Ignatius players. We would be having a different conversation right now if we would have continued to play into the eighth, ninth, 10th overtime and someone would have catastrophically got hurt.

BLOCK: What's the conversations been like at school today, a day - you know, the first school day back after this game?

IRWIN: You know, it's been a great buzz. You know, going back to one of our players was upset, and he made the comment: I still have something to prove; it wasn't finished. And you know, our comments to them were, you beat the No. 2 team in the state the previous Saturday to get to the Frozen Four. You knocked off the No. 5 team in the state on Friday, and you just took the No. 1 team in the state to seven overtimes. And we were unranked, by the way, coming into the state tournament. There's nothing more to prove. You're a champion. You gave everything you had on that ice, and so did St. Ignatius.

And they both - you know, when you play a long game like that, and if it would've went to where somebody won, the comments are always made, well, both teams deserve to win. No one really deserved to lose that game. In this case, you know, I think we got it right. I don't think either team deserved to lose. And the outcome is, kids are safe, and both teams can call themselves state champs.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Irwin, thanks for talking to us, and congratulations on the shared championship.

IRWIN: You bet. Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Chris Irwin is athletic director for Northview High School in Sylvania, Ohio; co-champion in hockey, along with St. Ignatius.

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