TOWNSEND -- They used to be professionally washed and repaired each year. Once upon a time they could hold everything a high school hockey player needed: clothing, padding, whatever.
Now those same bags, purchased in 1996 or 1997 -- no one is quite sure exactly when -- have come to the end of their lives. The cloth is faded, holes have worn through and zippers are stressed to the breaking point. The larger protective equipment can no longer be crammed into the once-colorful duffels.
New bags are needed.
Parent Scott Blanchard of Townsend is spearheading an effort to raise $2,500 for a new set of team bags. "It's time for an upgrade," he said.
Safety equipment has grown over the decades, coach Mike McCarthy said. The newer style shoulder pads barely fit in the old bag.
New bags are also a matter of pride. On game days, the members of the hockey team dress up for school. "It's just one of the rules that's always been with the program," Blanchard said.
The team is still mostly looking good when they arrive at the game. "They walk into the rink for a game in shirts, slacks, ties and dress shoes. It would be nice for them to have a nice new bag. They're wearing this nice attire, carrying crummy bags," Blanchard said.
The users fee for hockey is $450 per year. For that, the player gets ice time, transportation to away games, two game shirts, a red shell to cover the pants if needed and the use of a bag, Blanchard said.
Carla Walter of Ashby, another parent, said her younger son is using the bag his brother used in earlier years. It is not a pretty sight.
Team parents have now added one more task to supporting their players. Now, instead of just buying new equipment, clothing and providing transportation to practices and games in Fitchburg, they are fundraising. They are asking businesses in their communities of Townsend, Pepperell and Ashby to donate money to buy the bags.
"I've been hearing good reports from the parents," Blanchard said. "Carla (Walter) has been unbelievable. She's just a fundraising phenom." Because she lives in Ashby and works in Townsend at the Board of Health, she has a good local network.
Hockey families can spend a fortune on equipping their sons. "It's all on the parents. At this level the kids all have new equipment," Blanchard said, "It can get a little crazy." Sticks cost between $75 and $250, skates between $200 and $700.
Then there are the helmets and safety equipment. "You never want to skimp on your safety equipment," Blanchard said, "You worry about your child getting a concussion. All the kids are required to have a mouth guard."
Fundraising is still ongoing, but the bags at Team Sports Hockey across the street from the ice rink in Fitchburg, are just about ready to go.
"Hopefully all (the fundraising) is going well with everybody," Blanchard said.