Female hockey registration questioned

ANTIGONISH: A number of parents of kids involved in Antigonish Minor Hockey are unhappy with decision from Hockey Nova Scotia regarding female hockey.

Jennifer Connors is a parent of three female and one male hockey players in the Antigonish Minor Hockey Association (AMHA). She said Hockey Nova Scotia is making any female player registered with AMHA who wishes to play against other females join the Fundy-Highland Hockey Association.

“It’s been a huge struggle,” said Connors, who is working with Frank Isherwood. He started the female hockey program in Antigonish 25 years ago. “Clearly, we don’t want our players to have to leave their home association and join an association that basically covers a zone in Nova Scotia that runs from the New Brunswick border to the Canso Causeway.”

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Connors said there are 132 females registered in AMHA who are part of a strong program which has grown over 25 years.

“This is a step backwards for us,” said Connors. “In the first proposal that they came to us with, our registration fees would increase and we would have one game and one [practice] time per week. In Antigonish Minor Hockey now, our females benefit from two skill sessions, a practice session, a rep game each week as well as house league. We were quite outraged at the possibility of this happening.”

On August 3, AMHA parents met at the Antigonish Arena and a majority of members voted to stay with AMHA.

“We’re going to take this further, said Connors. “I think this is just the first step in many more steps of following this through. We’re quite confident that we are going to go to Fundy-Highland and then we are going to go on to Hockey Nova Scotia and we are going to make this happen. It’s ludicrous to think that Hockey Nova Scotia could prevent Antigonish female teams from playing other female teams across Nova Scotia because we are not in their association.”

She said the next step is bringing people together to work with AMHA to deal with the concerns surrounding the issue.

Hockey Nova Scotia addressed the matter in a release on its Web site.

“Hockey Nova Scotia recognizes that there is a debate regarding the Fundy-Highland Female Hockey Zone currently taking place in the community of Antigonish,” stated the release, before making some clarifications. “First off, it is important to note that there will be no changes this season to the way players from the Fundy-Highland Female Hockey Zone register for Female Hockey. Since 2015, players wishing to play Female Hockey in Nova Scotia have been mandated to sign up through the Hockey Nova Scotia Female Hockey Central Registry. Players from Antigonish (and everywhere else in the province) who are playing female hockey have had to do that each year since the 2015-16 season. This is not a new change.”

The release stated the changes were made to improve the administration of female hockey, to get female hockey leagues up and running earlier in the season, and to get female players playing with and against other female players of a similar skill set.

 “Since 2015, when girls sign up to play female hockey through the Hockey Nova Scotia female hockey central registry, those players are given to their local regional zone committee [like Fundy-Highland] who in turn, assigns them to a team and places that team with a local Minor Hockey Association,” stated the release. “Hockey Nova Scotia has not mandated that any of the five remaining zones that administer female hockey must become female hockey associations. This decision has been left up to the female hockey zone committees in those regions to determine when they are ready.”