The outgoing head of the female program with Kelowna Minor Hockey says girls are being treated unfairly and he's quitting out of frustration.
After two years leading the female house program, Kent Johnson says he questions the association's commitment to eliminating the inequities between the girls' and boys' hockey programs.
"For a long time, I believed that female hockey would be strongest within Kelowna Minor Hockey. I worked very hard to make that happen. We have made considerable progress over the past two years," Johnson wrote in his resignation letter to the association.
"However, recent frustrations have made me question the commitment of our association to the female program," he wrote.
In his resignation letter, Johnson cites a number of issues he noticed during his two years heading the female program, including:
- Shorter practice times for female rep teams.
- Female hockey not able to host the same size tournaments as boys.
- Female teams getting bumped from practice times due to rink conflicts.
- Female teams forced to practice on smaller ice surfaces.
"I want those girls to have every opportunity that the boys have. I am very proud of the steps we have taken for girls hockey in and around Kelowna," wrote Johnson.
"I am no longer convinced that progress can continue within Kelowna Minor Hockey."
Johnson declined to be interviewed by CBC News, but hockey parent Mark Arellano says he's also frustrated with the situation.
"If one segment of our population to be deemed to be not as worthy to have the same opportunities, I think that is a really negative message to send to our girls," said Arellano.
Kelowna Minor Hockey says the issue is not gender discrimination, but a scarcity of ice in Kelowna.
Executive Director Leonie Popoff says boys teams also get bumped when there are scheduling conflicts.
Popoff says the female program is in its infancy. She says it is harder to plan tournaments for the girls program as the number of teams fluctuates from year to year.
Full text of resignation letter
Please accept my resignation as Director of the Female Program at Kelowna Minor Hockey effective immediately. The last few months have been difficult and this decision was not easy. For a long time, I believed that Female Hockey would be strongest within Kelowna Minor Hockey. I worked very hard to make that happen. We have made considerable progress over the past two years. However, recent frustrations have made me question the commitment of our Association to the female program.
A number of inequities between the male and female programs have been evident for a long time. Some of the gaps are slowly being closed. In a few cases, there is no sign of improvement. A few examples follow.
The top level of male hockey tends to have the opportunity for a tournament with up to 8 teams. This is a great opportunity for diversity of opponents. It is also a primary fundraising tool. The female program were only given sufficient ice for four teams in their tournament.
After the inequity was identified for the rep tournaments, I was assured, by Kelowna Minor Hockey, that we would do better for the female recreational tournament at the end of February. As a result, we did a bit of marketing and encouraged teams to apply. Recently, I was told that we will only be provided with enough ice for four team tournaments in recreational divisions as well. This has been the “proverbial straw” for me in terms of my time as a director in our association.
Bantam and Midget tier 1 male teams get two 90-minute practices per week plus they often share a third weekly practice. All of these are in the evening. Female tier 1 teams get two 75 minute practices and one of these is early morning.
Our female recreational teams frequently get “bumped” from their practice times due to Kelowna Chiefs games or Prospera conflicts. I suggested this year that these conflicts be shared across the association. That proposal was rejected. One female group (31 players, shared ice) was moved to the small OIC ice for 6 practices. I intervened and shared this disruption across the female program. No shared ice male practices were shifted to the OIC ice as far as I know.
I have approximately 15 e-mails which require a response regarding our female recreational tournament at the end of February. Tomorrow, I will contact all of these teams to indicate that I am no longer a director with Kelowna Minor Hockey. I will suggest that they contact the office for more information. I will continue to support the female midget rep team as its treasurer.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as director of our female hockey program. I have enjoyed the challenge of improving opportunities for girls in sport. Three Atom female teams might be as many as any other association in BC. That is very exciting. I want those girls to have every opportunity that the boys have. I am very proud of the steps we have taken for girls hockey in and around Kelowna. I am no longer convinced that progress can continue within Kelowna Minor Hockey. I will leave it to others to build on what has been accomplished.