Some players and parents of the Vancouver Seals hockey team have expressed their anger at Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association (VIAHA) and BC Hockey’s treatment of the team alleging a litany of failings.
Due to the mixed nature of sharing administrative responsibilities, the criticism has been divided between the two organizations.
“I truly believe that BC Hockey is destroying [female] hockey on the Island through their indifference and apathy,” says Seals captain and All-Star Yannick Truter, who is leaving to play in the U.S.
The Midget AAA Seals are at the highest level of girls hockey on the Island, and draw players from across the rock, relying on the governing bodies to organize ice time. However, VIAHA female member numbers have steadily declined over the past five years, from 390 to 260, in a sport experiencing massive female participation elsewhere in Canada.
Each Seal pays around $7,500 per year to BC Hockey and expects the same level of administrative support the boys’ teams enjoy. These include regular 3.75 hours of ice time per week, convenient practice slots and games scheduled at appropriate times.
They say that none of these expectations were met last season, and without club and parental support, as well as sympathetic local associations and rinks, the team wouldn’t have been able to function.
Boys teams of a comparable level enjoy multiple practices a week, while the girls usually only get two. As it turned out, VIAHA only provided two practice slots for the entire season and four slots for games. The Seals were forced to lobby for more and had to rely on supplementary sessions at Shawnigan Lake that their manager had booked at the start of the season.
“The ice we were provided was basically just ‘throw away slots’ that nobody wanted because they were in such remote locations at ridiculous times,” explains Truter, saying many players got home after midnight.
The thrill of game night was also ruined, with their games being scheduled for empty rinks on Friday afternoons when fans were at work and the students should have been in school.
Truter says she and her teammates’ development stalled and she calls on BC Hockey to pay back the money they received from the players.
When contacted, BC Hockey said they recently undertook a review of programming and developed a female hockey model. They added, “We are encouraged from the positive feedback we have received to the new model and we have several initiatives in progress in our efforts to grow the female game. Our female participants currently make up approximately 10 per cent of our membership and we feel we can grow that number significantly under our model for female hockey.”
VIAHA echoes those sentiments with president Jim Humphrey saying “All of us are hoping that once things get set up we all hope we can attract more females to hockey.”
Truter’s father, Andre, says he is disappointed as the girls have the same aspirations in the game as the boys do.
“This team was supposed to be the flagship for female hockey. Unfortunately, they had to play their games in obscure arenas at obscure times,” he said. “When people here tell me their daughters love hockey and they ask my advice, I tell them ‘put your girls in soccer.’”