Ringette parent upset over eligibility policy at westerns
Players who compete internationally not allowed to play at westerns
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 06:00 am
A St. Albert ringette parent wants changes made to the eligibility rules for players at the western Canadian championships.
Cathy Girard said her 16-year-old daughter, Lauryn, a belle A netminder, is ineligible for westerns if her St. Albert team wins provincials after playing for Team USA at the recent U19 world championship in London, Ont.
“It doesn’t make sense her involvement in this tournament has impacted her outside of the tournament,” Cathy said. “It doesn’t change her tiering at a provincial level. She is eligible to compete in provincials and can win provincials but she can’t go on.”
Players in western Canada are designated as AAA if they play internationally and are ineligible to play at westerns. However, players from eastern Canada who compete internationally are eligible to play at the eastern ringette championships.
“I don’t think it’s fair to A players. I know the (western) governance committee has said it’s going to look at it and review it but they need to get rid of it because a lot of girls live in communities where the A level of play might be the only level they have access to. If they choose to try out for one of these teams and make it, why should they be penalized in their home community if they have no other option or no other level of play? It doesn’t seem fair they slap this broad policy on anyone.”
Natasha Johnston, the new executive director for Ringette Canada, said the western and eastern championships are not governed by Ringette Canada and are two separate events.
“There is some historical reasons obviously as to why it is set up the way it is set up, but to be very honest I’m only three weeks on the job so I don’t know all the history,” Johnston said. “I don’t know if there has ever been those conversations where it should be, it should not be, the reasons why, etc.”
The U19 world tournament was comprised of Team Canada East, Team Canada West, Team USA, Finland, France and Russia. Team USA, France and Russia are countries developing their ringette programs and were unable to put teams together at the elite levels so their rosters featured Canadian players through Ringette Canada’s Mosaic program. The Team USA line-up was made up of nine players from Alberta, including forward Janelle Wilk of St. Albert, three from Manitoba, two from Saskatchewan and one from British Columbia. France’s team was primarily made up of Quebec players and Russia used mostly Ontario players.
“The Mosaic program that our daughter took part in was a non-competitive team to give girls the experience of playing at that higher level of competition,” Cathy said. “I could almost see if our daughter had been selected to play on Team Canada West, she would’ve had to beat out goalies from across western Canada, so there is that bit of a selection process and that makes sense to me that maybe you slap an eligibility issue on somebody in that position because really the policy should be in place to ensure fair play and not give any team any kind of an advantage.
“But she didn’t make the Team Canada tryouts, they didn’t even invite her, and she is taking part in the program that really, if there was a spot, you played, so that AAA designation is unfair.”
Cathy was surprised the policy existed.
“At the end of August, it was mentioned to us that if she ends up playing A there is probably going to be an issue and I said that is ridiculous. There is no way because the Mosaic program isn’t a competitive program so to penalize these girls for competing in it is, in my view, ridiculous. It’s not like they were handpicked or selected or coached. If you paid the money you can go,” Cathy said.
“The coach who selected Lauryn (as the only netminder on her St. Albert belle A team) didn’t know about it. I’m not sure if the (St. Albert) association knew about it but I don’t think so. It’s kind of like a secret policy that impacts us and lots of girls in western Canada are going through the same thing,” she said.
It wasn’t until Cathy checked out the western Canadian championship website that she realized there was an eligibility issue.
“I don’t know how they would expect us even to begin to even imagine that that would be an issue,” she said. “I know Ringette Canada has nothing to do with either (the western and eastern championship committees) but they should be advocating for these girls and supporting players who want to play to the highest level they’re capable of.”
Johnston said the western policy is very clear.
“It states that an athlete that participates in an international world class event must sit out a cycle,” Johnston said. “I cannot speak to the issues that may have arised around the communication of that information but typically that information would not come from Ringette Canada to the athletes.”
Kathy Sarapu, chairperson for the western Canadian ringette championships, said the current restriction has been in place for years and there have been Alberta players in the past who have not been permitted to play at westerns after participating at worlds.
“When the Girards first contacted me I said I would contact the voting bodies to see if an exemption would be permitted. I got three nos and an abstention,” Sarapu said. “Changes are typically made at our AGM, which is held the same time as the actual western games themselves, which would not actually help the Girards.
“If it were up to me I probably would have allowed it, but I am not a voting body. I’m the chair,” she said.
Sarapu has talked to Ringette Canada over “some obvious gaps I think we need to look at in conjunction with both Ringette Canada’s rules and with westerns’ rules and it really did arise from this issue.”