Sudbury

'No words': All varsity hockey, swim teams chopped as Laurentian University cuts continue

The varsity sports program's hockey and swim teams are the latest casualties of Laurentian University's restructuring as the Sudbury, Ont., school navigates the insolvency process. "It's really sad; there's no words," says Sudbury native Nina Kucheran, now an Olympic hopeful.

Swim teams won several awards in recent years, Phil Parker named Ontario coach of year in 2020

Craig Duncanson had two stints as head coach of Laurentian's Voyageurs hockey team. The first was in 1997-98 and the second began in 2013. The men's and women's hockey teams have been cut as part of the school's restructuring process. (www.alchetron.com)

Craig Duncanson, who up until Monday was coach of Laurentian's men's hockey team, calls the decision to cut the program a "knee-jerk reaction."

The university has been mired in insolvency hearings, and news of faculty cuts and program terminations have trickled through social media since announcements began rolling out Monday.

Some varsity team sports are the latest victims.

Both men's and women's hockey and swim teams have been "discontinued," the university announced Wednesday. 

The swim teams were particularly successful in recent years, ranking in several national competitions. Phil Parker even won Ontario swim coach of the year in 2020.

Those successes are all in the past now, said Duncanson. 

"It doesn't ring logical to me. I firmly believe in making cuts to make the university fiscally responsible, but this just isn't one of them." 

The insolvency process under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) allow organizations to operate while restructuring to get back on financial footing.

In the case of the Laurentian's sports cuts, some 100 students will likely be transferring to other schools, Duncanson said.

"Pretty much all of them right now are working on trying to find somewhere to go, which is doubly frustrating now because we have a year where there's two years worth of recruits everywhere because there wasn't a season last year," he said.

"We have 26 existing students, 20 from last year and six new recruits that didn't get a chance to play, and they'll be looking for another option."

Duncanson also said the hockey programs account for several new university recruits every year, something the university wasn't considering in its plans. Players looking to continue their hockey careers have picked Laurentian against other schools with hockey programs. 

"It's extremely disheartening because ... the university spends a lot of money trying to recruit," he said. "I can't imagine the investment they put in to go to a university fair to try and recruit, but they never get 100 and more students from those fairs."

Sudbury, Ont., native Nina Kucheran, an Olympic hopeful, says Laurentian coach Phil Parker has been an incredible support in her swimming career. (Supplied by Nina Kucheran)

Olympic hopeful Nina Kucheran, a Sudbury native who has experience representing Canada and collegiate swimming in the U.S., said Parker's work with the school's swim teams were an immeasurable help in her athletic career.

"It's really sad; there's no words," said Kucheran said. "Phil has put decades of work into that team. He's an amazing coach. It's sad the legacy he's built up over two decades being taken away just like that."

In a statement, Marie-Josée Berger, the university's vice-president academic, said the cuts will allow Laurentian to "further aligns its financial resources."

 "Laurentian University has had a rich history of competition in both sports and I would like to thank the student-athletes and coaches for their commitment and dedication to the university's success in varsity sports over many years," the statement reads.

"Laurentian University will continue to pursue athletic success in the OUA [Ontario University Athletics] and U SPORTS."

The statement says sports programs still at the school include women's and men's basketball, soccer, cross-country running, indoor track, golf, Nordic skiing, curling, rowing and men's baseball.

Craig Duncanson, former head coach of Laurentian University's men's hockey team joined us to talk about what's next for him and the team following the announcement of big cuts. 9:22

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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