High school hockey is back on in Nova Scotia — sort of.
The new Midget X Winter Hockey League has been launched by Hockey Nova Scotia to offer an alternative to high school players sidelined by the work-to-rule campaign of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
"We don't want kids stuck in the middle of all that and we strongly believe they deserve an opportunity to play, so it was just a matter of finding a means and a way that they could participate," said Hockey Nova Scotia executive director Darren Cossar.
"We are very fortunate our minor hockey associations stepped up and the volunteers within the school leagues and coaches all stepped up."
Work-to-rule prevents teachers from organizing extracurricular activities such sports. Teachers, who are in the midst of a contract dispute with the province, started the job action Dec. 5.
Big interest in league
Close to 600 players on 33 teams have registered to play in the new league. The first game was Tuesday.
In Cape Breton there will be a five-team regional league. A northern regional league will have teams from Amherst, Antigonish, East Hants, Truro and two from Pictou County.
Eleven teams will play in a southern league, which stretches from Yarmouth to Windsor, and the 12 teams that formed the Metro High School Hockey League will now play in an HRM league.
"Basically we took all of the kids that were playing within the high school leagues and on a team were eligible to participate in the new leagues," Cossar told CBC Radio's Information Morning.
"Those players had the choice to play on where geographically their high school was, or if they wanted to play within a team where the minor hockey registration would have placed them."
No connection to schools
Teams are not permitted to wear school team uniforms or use their school names for their teams.
As an example, Millwood High School and Sackville High School in the metro league are now simply called Sackville Orange and Sackville White.
Others are using their minor hockey affiliations. J.L. Ilsley High School is called Chebucto, and Citadel High School and Halifax West High School will be called Halifax Hawks Red and Halifax Hawks Black.
The teams will play an abbreviated schedule of 10 to 12 games. They will also have an opportunity to compete for a provincial championship at the season ending SEDMHA minor hockey tournament.
If the provincial government and NSTU come to an agreement soon it could have a big impact on the newly formed leagues.
"Some teams have already indicated they would go back to the school system to play but others have indicated they would stay," said Cossar. "The bottom line for us is as long as the kids are playing hockey and have that opportunity, we're happy."