Vancouver Island introduces controversial motion to encourage girls to play girls hockey

Of the more than 1,000 girls playing minor hockey on Vancouver Island, only 300 play on all-female teams, while the other 700 play on co-ed or boys teams, says the head of the hockey association. And that's a problem for many girls and their families.

When girls choose to play on co-ed or boys teams, it makes it harder to put girls-only teams on the ice

The Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association is considering a rule change that would increase the number of girls-only teams. (Lorraine Swanson/Shutterstock )

Of the more than 1,000 girls playing minor hockey on Vancouver Island, only 300 play on all-female teams, while the other 700 play on co-ed or boys teams, says the head of the hockey association.

It's a problem that's making all-female hockey teams unsustainable on the island, Jim Humphrey says.

"We're having to make nine- and 10-year-old [all-girl teams] travel from Victoria to Campbell River or Port Hardy on a regular basis just to play a hockey game," said Humphrey, president of the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association.

"That's what we're trying to alleviate, because parents have told us loud and clear, they don't want to travel 600 kilometres just to play a hockey game."

Motion to support girls first

Humphrey said that as many as 60 families are being turned away from the sport on an annual basis because their daughters don't want to play with the boys, but there are not enough girls to form a girls-only team in their area.

That's why a motion is being introduced at the VIAHA annual general meeting this weekend that would compel the 17 minor hockey associations on Vancouver Island to form a girls team if there are 12 or more females registered in an age group. 

All would be placed on the girls team first and would have the option of also playing for a co-ed team while only paying a single registration fee.

'Critical mass'

"All we're trying to do is to build a critical mass of female players. We're asking the girls — the only ones who can help their peers to play hockey — that if they want to play boys hockey to come out and play girls hockey as well," said Humphrey.

The proposal has some concerned, including Sam Kingcott, 12, who has played boys hockey in Sooke since she was four.

"It's ridiculous," she said. "I don't see why people have to force girls to play on girls teams. I don't want to be told where I have to play."

Her mother agrees. 

"I think this whole segregation of females onto a separate team is taking away her human rights," said Kingcott's mother, Laura. "It has been fought in court in Canada and the girls won."

Past human rights decisions have ruled that females have the right to play on male teams if they choose, which is why in Canadian minor hockey is organized into co-ed teams and female-only teams, but there are no boys-only teams.

Making the game inviting for girls

But Humphrey thinks talk about human rights is misplaced when it comes to the efforts being made to grow female hockey on Vancouver Island and make the game inviting for girls. 

"What I don't understand about all the human rights banter that goes around — what about the girl that doesn't get to play? Does she have no rights? What about the boys who can't play because girls are taking the spots on the team? We're having that happen in Victoria too."

"I just don't understand why there's so much pushback," he said.

Humphrey believes that if the motion is defeated, there's a good chance female-only hockey for girls under the age of 12 will disappear on Vancouver Island. 

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