Like most of us, Angela Burke and Chantal Rivest already have plans for the New Year. The two have been invited to play a tournament with a rec league team in Fort St. John, BC.
Because of obvious logistical issues stemming from the fact they live in Whitehorse, Burke and Rivest will be competing with the team but won’t be practising with them. So they have to find another way of keeping their skills sharp.
“We don’t have a girls’ team to play on,” said Rivest. “There’s the women’s league that we’re doing, but the calibre of hockey that we’ve played in previous years compared to this year, the level has dropped significantly.”
The pair hoped to train with the Midget Mustangs rec team, the best players Whitehorse offers in their age group.
The girls weren’t allowed to play or practise with the team. For them, tryouts ended early.
“Angela and I both went to the tryouts and we were pulled aside by the coach after a couple (of skates),” said Rivest. “(We were) told that he was going to have the final team done and it was going to be difficult having girls this year…
“Then we talked to some of the boys and they said they were still doing tryouts while me and Angela were told that tryouts were done for us.”
Burke and Rivest did not play on the midget team last year, but did attend practices to maintain their skills. However, this year even that privilege was revoked.
“He denied us that and said that if he let us out he’d have to let every other girl out too and it wouldn’t be fair,” said Rivest.
Midget Mustangs coach Jim Stephens refused to comment for this story.
According to officials, the Whitehorse league is open to both genders, but the lack of a draft system makes it harder for girls to get on rosters.
“Certainly women are welcome in our league,” said Andrew Connors, president of the Whitehorse rec hockey league. “I think it would be great to see more women involved in our league, particularly midget-aged women.
“In order for them to try out in the higher levels — the Western teams, the Canadian women’s teams — they need to be playing at a higher level.
“Our problem is that we’re over subscribed. Our teams have very full rosters and the teams choose their own players. If we had a draft it would be easier for them to join a team.”
Despite her disappointment, Rivest acknowledges that complications do arise with co-ed teams.
“There are difficulties having girls on teams like that,” admits Rivest. “We have to have separate change rooms and we have to have a parent along or female along to room with (while on the road). I understand there are difficulties, but they’re easy to work around.”
After all, Rivest should know, both she and Burke have been playing on boys’ rec teams from atom up to bantam.
“What I don’t understand is that I’ve played on rec teams with those boys before,” said Rivest. “I’ve played with Jim’s sons and there’s never been an issue with me playing at all.
“We don’t even know the reasoning behind it.”
Currently Rivest is keeping her skills sharp by playing once a week in the women’s league while Burke is practising with a bantam house league team.
“(At the Hockey Night in Whitehorse,) Jay Glass, the coach of the Bantam Mustangs, said that Angela and I were more than welcome to skate with his team.
“So that’s what we’ll be doing in the New Year to prepare for the tournament.”
In what can easily be considered poetic justice, Burke and Rivest were invited to play for the Terra Firma Muckers two weeks ago in a triple header called Hockey Night in Whitehorse. In the final game of the evening, the two girls and the Muckers defeated the Midget Mustangs 3-2.
“We added Angela and Chantal to our roster so they could play against the Midget (Mustangs),” said Connors, who plays for the Muckers. “We had a bunch of players away, so we thought it would be fun to add them and for them to be able to skate with all these rec players because they are very good players … They could totally be skating in the A division.”
Since coaches have the final say on which players are named to their teams, technically no rules have been broken and little or nothing can be done. However, this is little consolation for Rivest, who is still searching for a clear explanation.
“It doesn’t make sense that after so many years playing with this group of boys — all the parents know me,” said Rivest. “Any girl should get a fair tryout to play for a team. That’s really frustrating to deal with.”
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