Women's hockey: Thumbs-down to UNB

New Brunswick might repeat as national champions at the University Cup. Suffice to say, there won't be any warm feelings coming from this corner if the Varsity Reds end up hoisting the trophy in Moncton on Sunday night.

Sorry, but it's impossible to give UNB its due for the success of its men's hockey program when it makes a statement like the one when women's hockey was busted down to club status earlier this week. No doubt it was a tough decision and it gets into the whole debate over what the CIS is about, but it was the wrong one. It's 2008. Let's not go backwards.

They can cry about costs all they want, but UNB's actions basically state that only men get to play competitive hockey as part of a well-rounded education. Don Davis, the coach, points out that's exceedingly hypocritical considering the university's educational mission.
"My bone of contention with that philosophy is that, when you are a kinesiology school...when your kinesiology program is noted as one of the top programs in Canada...when your raison d'être is to promote healthy lifestyle, to promote sport, to promote participation, to promote kids being active...you cut, not because you don't have the money but because you think you have a better chance of competing for national titles with eight teams as opposed to 14." — Fredericton Daily Gleaner
Other schools have cut sports in order with the aim of raising their athletic profile. The buzzword is "optimization." Former Carleton AD Drew Love did so in the late '90s, but managed to add women's hockey in the process.

The other point to be made in this is that it's not just about winning games. As much as the CIS is emulating some elements of the NCAA, sports to some extent are still part of the educational mission. It's about raising leaders. 

Considering the challenges our society is facing with sedentary, overweight kids and the lack of positive female role models, the University New Brunswick is incredibly wrongheaded to show a lot potential leaders in physical education the back of its hand. Now a lot of young women who want to play competitive hockey and go to school will have to leave their home province and possibly never return. 

Here's hoping it's not too late to get UNB to see the light; there's a Facebook group with 650 members at this writing, but it's going to take a little more to save the team. (If it's happening to save money for a revived football program, UNB is a loser both ways. If that they're that cheap, how can they swing football?) 

The Varsity Reds' game tomorrow vs. Saskatchewan is going to be broadcast nationwide on Sportsnet. It would be nice if the announcers mentioned this; it would also be just desserts if one of the schools that values women's hockey, such as Alberta, Moncton or McGill, hoists the University Cup on Sunday.

(Thanks to John Bower for the link.)
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  1. Good post. That's certainly going against the trend of more schools offering women's hockey programs. In my mind, this is disappointing to see, but not entirely unexpected: women's university hockey gets very little attention compared to the men's side. Hopefully, the same thing won't happen at Queen's: women's hockey was ranked 11th by the Athletics Review, which recommended keeping 10 to 16 teams. They beat out the men's program (14th) though, so if hockey does wind up getting cut (which is looking less likely now that the final evaluation will take place closer to the completion of the new rink), it would probably be both teams that go.

  2. Queen's cutting hockey is beyond my comprehension ... at the end of the day, there's some alumni in high places who will be heard.

    Look at it this way... it's a student activity that enhances their overall education. Of course, the trend in Canadian schools has been for students to be small-town-cheap and vote down any increase in student fees dedicated to sports. Typical Canadian acting like crabs, pulling each other down.

  3. Yeah, I don't think Queen's would actually cut either men's or women's hockey, as there was a lot of outcry after both hockey programs wound up in the bubble zone and they got far more support than most teams hanging around the edges. I just threw that out there to show that UNB isn't the only school that's looked at cutting hockey programs. Good point on the student fees, though. The Queen's review recommended trying to raise the student athletic fee substantially, but I don't see that happening any time soon: many students are still upset over the Queen's Centre fee (which after all, is partly athletics-related), and I haven't heard from many people who support giving more student money to athletics.