A new Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) rule will limit where young girls can play hockey.
Beginning in the 2018-19 season, girls who live outside of cities will not be able to play on city teams.
SHA general manager Kelly McClintock told Gormley Monday these sorts of rules have already been in place for boys for more than 25 years.
“What it did is really stimulate minor hockey associations around (Regina and Saskatoon) to organize themselves and offer programming for boys as opposed to just relying on the two larger centres to offer the programming,” McClintock said.
He noted there are enough girls in the rural areas to make the programs work and associations have 16-months until the rule takes place.
“We're giving an opportunity for associations to put a plan in place, if they don't put a plan in place – or they come to us and say they need more time – then our board would consider that,” McClintock said.
McClintock said girls who play in Midget AAA can still play wherever they want to, and added the board would be willing to look at the rule again if the right argument was presented.
“We would certainly want to see associations about what their plan as opposed to just advocating that side of programming for female hockey,” he said.
CHANGE WOULD SPREAD PLAYERS THIN: PARENTS
The rule has drawn the ire of hockey parents from across the province.
Kristy Laird has a daughter who plays hockey in Saskatoon.
She said the current Saskatoon girls league her daughter plays in can only field four teams, which includes girls from rural areas.
“If you take away our rural people from Saskatoon, we're losing numbers and we're spreading them very thinly in rural areas,” Laird said.
It's not just the numbers that have Laird concerned, but also the development of the girls and their skills.
“If you put them out to the rural communities, there's not enough players to tier the teams. They'll play on unbalanced teams. You'll have players that are brand new just putting on their skates to elite players and you're not developing those girls properly.”
Laird has set up a petition to get the SHA to reconsider the rule change.
Kim Delasoy is from Mclean, a village 42 kilometres east of Regina. Her11-year-old daughter plays girls hockey in the Queen City.
She said the incoming rule change is already having an effect on her 11-year-old daughter, who plays girls hockey in Regina.
“She was devastated,” Delasoy said. “She has already said that she's not really sure that she wants to play.”
Delasoy is with a group called Play Like a Girl, that is trying to fight back against the rule.
She said the group would like to see the SHA begin something like this at the initiation level and build it from the ground up.
“If we're able to start at the initiation level and build it up, leave the girls that are in the city now, but have everyone build up a strong base, it could be a fantastic move for everyone involved,” Delasoy said.
— With files from Britton Gray.
On Twitter: @CJMENews
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