NORTON - Youth hockey players, parents and members of the Norton Hockey Organization cheered Monday night as the school committee voted to add a hockey prgram to Norton High School athletics.

School committee members voted 4-0 to add the hockey team to the school's athletic department in the 2013-2014 school year.

Committee member Phillip Lynch was absent from the meeting.

The decision came after a presentation by the Norton Hockey Organization, which has been working with school Finance

Director Barry Nectow and interim Superintendent Christopher Martes to come up with a comprehensive plan to start up a hockey team at the high school.

"Twenty years ago, Norton may not have been able to have a team, but in 20 years participation in hockey has doubled," NHO President Rick Palin said.

Palin listed a number of reasons to support a hockey program, including retention of Norton students to the district, something the district has been struggling with in recent years.

"The main reason is to keep Norton students in Norton," Palin said.

There are 15 Norton hockey players who attend high school outside of the district, the group said.

The organization, which runs a middle school hockey program in town, will assist the school department in running the team and will raise funds for the program.

The organization has mapped out a three-year budget for the program, with the first year cost an estimated $29,125, NHO Treasurer Tom Loranger said.

The organization said it already has raised $10,069 toward that amount and has $7,000 in pledges. A predicted amount of $12,500 will be raised through two major fundraisers, including a golf tournament to be held June 24.

Students who wish to play hockey will have to pay an additional $250 in athletic fees, bringing the total to $500 per player. The $500 fee will be credited solely to the hockey program.

The team will play an independent schedule for one or two seasons before joining the Tri-Valley League.

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