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Original Issue

Varsity Blues

ELIMINATED The athletics department at Winthrop (Mass.) High, as
a result of voter-mandated budget cuts. Winthrop is the alma
mater of Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro and 1980 U.S. hockey
Olympian Mike Eruzione, whose son Paul is a sophomore center on
Winthrop's 16-1-1 hockey team. Winthrop, a community of 20,000
just outside Boston, has had state champions in football and
hockey. "This town has always had great pride in its teams," Mike
Eruzione says. "We've seen ourselves as the little town that
could. That support seems to be eroding."

Voters in Winthrop, which for several years has battled budget
shortfalls, rejected an override that would have provided $6
million to the school district and to other public services (the
town's library and senior center will also close) but would have
increased annual property taxes by an average of $1,200 per home.
"I'm sympathetic to schools," says Alex Mavrakos, a retiree who
organized opposition to the override. "But also to our seniors
and young married couples struggling to maintain their property."

The vote means the shutdown, as of next fall, of Winthrop's 13
varsity teams, which had already been forced to rely on
fund-raising and to charge students $325 in user fees for each
sport they played. While there is still the outside possibility
of another override vote before September, most in Winthrop
expect the worst. Hockey players (and hundreds of other students)
walked out of classes on Feb. 10 in protest, and last Thursday,
Thomas Giancristino, the school superintendent, resigned. Paul
Eruzione plans to transfer to another high school next year, and
his father has spoken to a real estate agent about selling his
home in Winthrop. In the meantime the Massachusetts state
tournament begins next week, and senior goalie Adam Sullivan is
hoping Winthrop can pull off its own Miracle on Ice: "There's
nothing we can do now but win the state championship," he says,
"to let people know that sports belong here."

--Daniel G. Habib

B/W PHOTO: COURTESY WINTHROP HIGH SCHOOL (2) ICED The team Mike Eruzione (above) and son Paul (left) played onwill be cut.