Rural families fear their children will be left out of hockey altogether if Hockey New Brunswick adopts a proposal to axe  co-ed teams and make all-girls programs mandatory.

The organization votes in June on the motion, which calls for new regulations and proclaims: "Female players should be playing female hockey." 

'In small towns, there is already so little for kids to do, but I know my daughter won't be playing if we have travel over an hour to get her on the ice.' Chrissy BoudreauChipman

But Marty Forsythe, a former district director with the organization and a coach, said the motion is unnecessary and an unfair way to address smaller populations and the high costs of playing minor hockey.

"There are some kids who aren't going to be able to play hockey and I don't like that," he said.

The proposed motion says all female players born in 2005 or after must register with their local girls association.

If they attempt to register with a male association, they will be redirected to the nearest female program.

Marty Forsythe

Marty Forsythe is a former Hockey New Brunswick district director. (Sun Life Financial)

The same goes for girls born in 2004 or before, unless she is on a female AAA team or has tried out and made a male AAA team.

If no local female association exists or established, players must register with the neighbouring female association in their district or one in the closest separate district.

Forsythe said co-ed teams not only force kids to challenge and make each other better, but they are also keeping rural associations alive. 

"If you're from a small community, you take two [girls] off a team," he said.

"You had a team of 12. Now you only have a team of 10," he said. 

"So, in the smaller communities ... you end up not having enough for a team."

'Very wrong'

On May 15, Forsythe posted an open letter to Hockey New Brunswick from a young female hockey player on his Facebook page.

"I'm a young girl that plays hockey for a rec team and I feel what you are trying to do, having a vote at your AGM to make female hockey mandatory, is very wrong," the girl wrote.

"For many girls around New Brunswick, like me, will not be able to play hockey if co-ed teams are banned."

The girl said many in her community, which she did not identify, are sickened at the idea of forcing girls to leave their hometown teams.

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Canada has produced successful women athletes, many of whom grew up playing alongside the boys. (Jason Kryk/Canadian Press)

"Imagine seeing your daughter crying because she can't play with her friends, maybe she's amazing but then an all girls team is just too expensive. You have to watch her hockey career crumble into a thousand pieces and there's nothing you can do, you're helpless."

Forsythe would not disclose the girl's name.

"I think Hockey New Brunswick and the people that are making those decisions should read that letter," he said. 

"This girl wants to play hockey in her community. She doesn't want to go anywhere else."

In a statement, Ray Carmichael, the president of Hockey New Brunswick, said he recognized the challenges the proposed regulation would present if implemented but said the fact it's circulating does not mean it will be approved.

If it does pass, the change will take effect this fall. 

Not that simple to mother

Some parents said that because of low numbers in their areas, the  co-ed ban would force many families to travel between an hour and two hours a few times a week just so their daughters can play hockey.  

Smaller rural associations could also see numbers drop significantly if young girls are pulled out.

Chrissy Boudreau, a mother of two from Chipman who played hockey at Grand Lake throughout her childhood, said she was sad to learn of the motion.

"This coming hockey season I was planning to help coach while my daughter and son play on the same team," she said.

"In small towns, there is already so little for kids to do, but I know my daughter won't be playing if we have travel over an hour to get her on the ice."

Grand Lake Wild

Grand Lake's minor hockey association is one of many in rural New Brunswick that has plenty of girls competing with the boys. (Lisa Richardson)

Jeremy Fasquel, whose 12-year-old daughter also plays in Grand Lake, said he has mixed feelings but overall feels the proposed motion is unjust to girls who want to play hockey and to their parents.

"For one, I think it's a good thing to get all the girls together because they should be playing amongst themselves," Fasquel said.

"But on the other hand, the girls that do play co-ed, they really like playing with the boys, they have chemistry now with them, and go to school with them, so they're also friends."

Suggests players have choice

Separating the girls from the boys would have a huge impact on everyone, he said.

If girls are barred from playing in local associations, "some of the communities are going to be left with nothing and not have enough people to even ice a team," Fasquel said.

"For the smaller communities, it's going to hit them hard."

He believes young people should have the option of playing where they want to play. 

Hockey New Brunswick holds its annual general meeting June 9 and 10.