Girls’ hockey on the Island is going extinct, says the president of Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association.
More than a year ago, a proposal was brought to the VIAHA suggesting girls must play on a female team before they could also play on a boys squad. The girls would pay one registration fee.
“I think it would have benefited female hockey,” said VIAHA president Jim Humphrey.
“We’re starting the process of cancelling another competitive female team today because of the same issue. We had enough girls and then the parents didn’t think it would be competitive enough so the [players] left to play on boys’ teams.”
The proposal was created with hopes of increasing girls playing with female-only teams throughout the Island, because many girls in minor hockey are deciding to play on co-ed teams.
“Right now 75 per cent of the girls play in a co-ed hockey system,” Humphrey said. “This year we aren’t going to have any atom-aged girls teams. Zero. And we have very few peewees as well. There’s just getting to be less and less.”
Humphrey said the proposal received negative feedback from some parents, saying they don’t want their child to have to play on a girls team because it’s not competitive enough.
“I don’t know why some parents do what they do,” Humphrey said.
“All kinds of universities across Canada and the U.S only select female players who have chosen to play in and support female hockey, and won’t select female players out of the male hockey system. So potentially girls could be missing out on huge scholarships when they graduate from school.”
Humphrey said there are less girls teams on the Island to choose from. The only place for many girls to play in their area is on a co-ed team, and some girls don’t want to so they quit hockey.
“More girls quit than go play integrated hockey,” he said. “Not every female can play male hockey and not every female wants to play male hockey. So what do you do with those girls that don’t want to play with the boys? Right now all we can tell them is ‘sorry, unless something changes you can’t play hockey’ and that’s a sad thing.”
Humphrey thought the proposal would have been a win-win for everyone because the girls who didn’t want to play with boys could still have a team to play on, and the girls who would prefer co-ed could play on two teams for the price of one.
“Girls hockey will die on Vancouver Island, I’m convinced of that,” Humphrey said.
This year the Island has lost approximately 30 to 40 per cent of the existing teams in female hockey in the Greater Victoria area.
“What’s a parent going to do when their child gets to be 15-16 and there’s no female hockey to go to? There will be no teams, their daughter will probably have to quit, because there’s some who can compete at that level but not many,” he said.
Rob Chisholm, coach of the Sooke Thunderbirds midget girls team, said it was a struggle to find enough girls to put together a team this year.
“This could be for many reasons, but I think there are a lot of parents who don’t think their child is challenged enough playing girls hockey so they put them in integrated hockey,”Chisholm said.
“My opinion is that if all the girls played in the girls division, then it could be competitive to the highest level. However, that’s difficult when you are stuck with one level of hockey because the girls that are striving to play at a higher level often go and play with the boys.”
Chisholm said in past years he knew many girls that probably would have wanted to play for both the boys and girls teams if they had the option.
“The rights of the few should not outweigh the rights of the many, and it seems as if that’s what has happened,” he said.
Humphrey added that two-thirds of the Sooke hockey organization used to be made up of female hockey players, and now it’s down to only about 50 girls.
“Our goal is to keep but female hockey alive, but it’s proven that we are losing more girls and more teams,” Humphrey said.. “I don’t know what the answer is, maybe it will take hitting rock bottom. But once you give up something, it’s very hard to get it back.”