NORTON - Winter weather has arrived, and so has hockey season in Norton.

Rick Palin, president of the Norton Hockey Organization, came before the school committee Monday night with a status update on the new program.

The school committee voted in January to approve the addition of a hockey team to Norton High School athletics, and the team will play its home opener at 6:50 p.m. Saturday at the Foxboro Sports Center.

"The community support has been overwhelming," Palin told the school committee.

Palin said they have 19 players, two more than they projected, and said he expects that the number will climb as the program builds.

Kyle Heagney, a Norton resident who is also the Attleboro police chief, was named head coach earlier this year.

Palin had high praise for Heagney, saying that he emphasizes putting family first and focusing on schoolwork in addition to the time they spend on the ice.

"Coach Heagney is a very good coach, I can tell you that," Palin said.

The team will play its home games at the Foxboro Sports Center.

"After we got the team approved, the biggest hurdle was where we were going to play," he said. "Fortunately, Foxboro built a third rink in their complex right around the time we were looking for a home."

The team also had a private locker room assigned to it, courtesy of the center.

"They donated that to us. They usually charge teams, but as a start-up, self-funded team, they gave us that locker room, which was a big plus," Palin said.

Palin spoke of the importance of having a hockey program at the high school to keep Norton residents from leaving the district to play.

"One of the big things we were making a pitch for with hockey was to keep Norton students in Norton schools," Palin said.

He said there were a few students who would have left Norton schools so that they could continue their hockey careers elsewhere, but stayed thanks to the new program.

"With the advent of the team, they're here and we think it's just going to get better as the program is more established," he said.

PAIGE ALLEN covers Norton for The Sun Chronicle. She can be reached at pallen@thesunchronicle.com or at 508-236-0336, and followed on Twitter @SCNortonMa.

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