Some sad news that one might have feared was coming: the St. Thomas Tommies have folded men's hockey.
As reported by the Aquinian, the campus newspaper at the Fredericton, N.B., school will realize an annual savings to close to a quarter-million dollars, and the plan is that "athletic financial award commitments to a men’s hockey player will be honoured if the player continues his education at STU."
It always sucks when there is suddenly one fewer team in one of the major team sports, but times are tight, especially in Irving-land. One can feel the pain and know that, practically, a campus of 2,300 students that is two-thirds women would be in tough to sponsor a men's hockey program, especially with reigning CIS University Cup champion UNB next door. In fact, of the 11 universities across Canada that have a greater than 2-to-1 female-male ratio, only three are in CIS, the others being Brandon and Nipissing, which does have two hockey teams. That's extrapolated from a list published in Maclean's not too long ago.
So really, it does make sense for the school to go all in on the women's hockey Tommies, who finished sixth at the CIS championship and defeated McGill in a consolation-side game.
Someone who's been around longer could better elaborate on how this is the long tail of what's been called the 'professionalization' of university's men hockey. Other small schools such as Bishop's and Mount Allison long ago got out of the game.
It's a little early in the game to speculate about what AUS will do about running a seven-team men's hockey league. Everyone who appreciated St. Thomas' presence in university men's hockey should have time to grieve. The program's peak was probably 2001, when Jason Sands scored the overtime winner against St. Francis Xavier to seal the Tommies' first conference title.
Would that AUS could create a 10-team league with Concordia, McGill and Trois-Rivières that would qualify three teams for the University Cup each season, but it is doubtful that would ever get off the ground.