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Kenora ice policies shutting out women's hockey league, spokesperson says

The Kenora Women's Hockey League has dwindled from 50 or 60 players to around 12 thanks to a Friday night ice time, Jill Van Toen said.

The Kenora Women's Hockey League used to have 50 or 60 players. Now it has around 12.

Kenora is looking at rotating popular ice times at its local arenas so the Kenora Women's Hockey League isn't always stuck playing on Friday nights, according to Kenora's manager of community and development services, Matthew Boscariol. (Jill Van Toen/supplied)

A member of the executive of the Kenora Women's Hockey League says the city's ice time allocation policies are killing her league.

The league has dwindled from a high of 50 or 60 players and three teams to a roster of around a dozen players that only play competitively at tournaments—and its 10 p.m. Friday ice time is to blame, according to Jill Van Toen.

"Every time I talk to women that I know that used to play or that played through minor hockey, and I say,  'How come you're not coming to hockey anymore?'  [they say] 'Oh the time. Too late.  Weekends. You know.  Blah blah blah,'"  Van Toen said. 

Van Toen wants the league moved to one of the 16 spots available Monday through Thursday between about 9 p.m. and midnight, 15 of which are currently used by men's groups. 

"There's other places for those men to play hockey," Van Toen said.  "We know men who play multiple nights a week with multiple different user groups.  So we're sort of frustrated in that we don't have access to one of those." 

Ice allocation policy sets league up to fail

The Kenora Women's Hockey League formed nearly a decade ago as a league for women who had grown up in the early days of the Kenora girls minor hockey program and who were now returning home from University, she said.

At the time, the women were young, childless, and not yet settled into careers, she added, so their schedules were more flexible.

They also had access to better ice times at the former JM Arena. 

But once that arena closed, the numbers started dwindling, she said, as players began giving up hope of a more convenient ice time. 

The city's ice allocation policy has repeatedly set them up to fail, she added.

First, Van Toen said, the policy gave preference to existing user groups over new ones—a policy that disadvantaged women's hockey in Kenora, which is a relatively new sport.

'not asking for the moon'

Next, she said, the city used previous ice allocation schedules as a precedent for future years, which left her league stuck in its Friday night slot.

Most recently, she said, the city decided to use the number of users in a given user group as a basis for prioritizing ice time—which again disadvantages her league.

"Because we've been playing on this Friday night at 10:00 ... for so many years, our numbers have dwindled," she said. "But then we're denied the preferred ice times because our numbers are so low."

"Our numbers are low because of the ice time, but we can't get the ice time because our numbers are low," she added.

Van Toen spoke to Kenora City Council Thursday about her league's predicament.

The city's manager of community and development services, Matthew Boscariol, told CBC that was the right thing to do.

The city is now looking at rotating preferred ice-times so the women's league can share in them, he said. 

"We're not asking for the moon," Van Toen said. 

"We just want a better ice time that isn't going to force us into closing our league."

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