News that the University of New Brunswick has been ordered to reinstate its women's varsity hockey team by 2017 has been given a warm welcome by some fans and female hockey players.
The decision by the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board came after Sylvia Bryson, a former player, filed a complaint a year after the team was disbanded in 2007.
Kelty Apperson, captain of the St. Thomas Tommies women's team, says her sister had considered studying at UNB until she found out the school had no varsity hockey team.
"I think it's great. It's definitely steps in the right direction. It's going to build our league. It's nice that something like that was recognized."
The ruling means means the women's Atlantic university conference will have eight competitive teams starting in 2017.
Britany Sparrow, a UNB employee who describes herself as a big hockey fan, says she's looking forward to attending games in the future.
"I've been watching hockey since I was a little girl, and I've actually never been to a women's hockey game, and I'm really embarrassed about that, so the fact that I'm going to have the opportunity to go, it's great," she said.
The report by the board, signed by Robert Breen, chairperson of the board, said UNB's contention the women's varsity hockey program was cut for budget reasons, with the athletics department citing it as "our most expensive sport," one with virtually "no return on investment," was not supported.
The report cited "inconsistencies" in "UNB's budget presentations in the record of evidence."
The board also found that UNB's assumption that it could cut the team "as long as there were proportionate opportunities for women to try out for another varsity team," part of the university's Gender Equity Policy, is an example of "permissive stereotyping."
The university has a year to rewrite the policy "to ensure its provisions protect substantive gender equity."
The decision states that it only applies to the women's hockey program, but Karin Lofstrom of the Canadian Association for Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity, based in Ottawa, said it could affect other sports where men's and women's teams are not equally funded.
"It sends a message that they have to pay attention ... and can't pick and chose which sports the women are allowed to play and which ones they aren't," said Lofstrom.
With this precedent, any future equality challenges should be dealt with much more quickly, she said.
Phil Currie, executive director of Atlantic University Sport said Wednesday's ruling will likely change how those calls, on what gets funded, are made in the future.
"I don't think UNB is alone in this. Decisions are made every day across the country in terms of what level of play teams are going to be playing at," Currie said.
Administrators at UNB say they are still digesting the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board ruling and it's too early to tell what effect the ruling will have on other sport clubs or varsity teams.