Winnipeg Girls win right to try out on boys hockey team …

From CBC.CA: Winnipeg girls win right to play on boys’ hockey team

A few months ago, I wrote about a court challenge in Winnipeg featuring twin girls who wanted the chance to try out for what they considered to be the top hockey team at their school, which happened to be an all-boys team.  The argument they advanced was that the girl’s team was a lower level of competition, and they should be allowed to play at the highest level their skill allowed, regardless of their gender.

This past Friday (Sept 22, 2006), the decision came down that the arguments of the Pasternak girls were valid, and they were upheld by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.  Adjudicator Lynne Harrison ruled the policy of the school had violated the girls rights by discriminating against them on the basis of sex.  She went on to add …

“the MHSAA has not satisfied the onus of establishing that … its refusal to allow the Pasternak girls to try out for, and if successful, play for the WKCI men’s hockey team, is justified,”

While this ruling applies ONLY to the hockey program (Harrison says “I decline to make a similar order with respect to the other sports administered by the MHSAA, as there is no evidentiary (sic) base for any such order”), it certainly opens up some interesting issues.  Critics have always complained that a decision like this will serve to gut girls hockey programs, leaving them as the equivalent of a ghetto for only the least talented girls, while more talented girls desert the program for the boys game.  Its hard to see how that can avoided, given the issues being discussed … the main point of the Pasternak girls was that the girls program at the school didn’t provide the level of competition they need to thrive and improve their game, but without players like the Pasternak’s, the girls program has little hope of ever improving that competitiveness.

But on the other side of the coin, its hard to deny any player the right to play at the highest level to which they are capable.  Hockey is not about gender, or ethnicity, or anything else … its about skating, puck passing, and scoring.  Whether or not a player can play at a certain level seems, to me anyway, ONLY a function of their hockey skills.  Certainly, discussion about physical size can ba made, and one can argue that girls, being smaller, might be at greater risk.  But no one cares about the risk to small boys, really (or at least not to the point of disallowing them from trying out), so this argument seems moot, especially given that there will always be the exceptions to the rule where girls actually outweigh and outreach their male teammates.

It strikes me that the whole notion of ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sports is pure gender discrimination.  There may be a reason for it … it may be that in an open environment, few girls would make the elite teams competing with boys.  But it may also be that girls find a new niche in sports that has previously gone unfilled, or has been filled by the smaller boys.  Ultimately, though, it seems that the basic principle of sport is that ability rules the day, and nothing else.  I think the girls need to be allowed to try out for the most competitive team available to them … hockey isn’t about gender, its about whether you can skate, and stickhandle.


6 Responses

  1. So now the boys who did not make the boy’s team because girls have taken their spot, must be allowed to try out for the girl’s team. Fair is fair, since the girls are winning a spot on the team that was previously held for boys. In this case, the girls’ win is the boys’ loss, so yes, there is a victim, unless the door is open in both directions.

    I really hope that this whole thing opens sports up to more people who want to play. I’m sure that there are many boys out there who could not make the boy’s team (even before the girls could try out for the boy’s team), but are more than capable of making the girl’s team. I guess this will push the least talented girls out of hockey altogether.

    It would be sad to see another legislated double standard in Canada, where the girls’ rights are protected, and the boys’ rights are stepped on.

  2. ok, comon andrew, lets get real here.
    myself being a hockey player of over 14 years, have played with some girls. yes even though they may not, or may, have been been the best players on the team do not matter. everyone should have the right to play at the highest level of compition availible to them, but they must be able to play and skate with whoever else is on the team, wether it be boys or girls.
    and who has ever heard of a guy applying to play for a girls hockey team, or whatever sports team that i have read about.
    in the NHL, Manon Rhéaume was the first female to play. she only played one period, but in those 20 minutes, she allowed 2 goals on 8 or 9 shots, and as any head coach in any league, she was sat on the bench for the remainder of them game. if she had played better, she would have been kept in for the 2nd, and maybe even the 3rd periods.
    but the fact and point here is that if the girls can keep uo and play with the boys, that they deserve to. and if i were one of the boys trying out for a female sports team, i would be ambarassed to the max, not having enough skill to play with my fellow friends on the boys but and then having to resolve to playing on the girls team. if that is what they want, then they (the boys) should ask for a co-ed team aswell, so thta both boys and girls can play together without conflict.

    Good on you girls, good luck this year!!!
    Hugh Dunlop, Calgary Alberta

  3. “But on the other side of the coin, its hard to deny any player the right to play at the highest level to which they are capable. Hockey is not about gender,”

    Gee Hugh, if hockey isn’t about gender why then would you be embarrassed to play on a girls team or at least be given the same opportunity to tryout for the girls team if you where a boy… you know like these two girls were given? BTW, the girls were cut from the team… and Hugh, if girls are allowed to play on a boy’s team the team then becomes co-ed, DUH!

  4. hockey isnt about gender therefore you shouldn’t be embarrassed! if you are embarrased hugh then you are afraid of what others think of you. the girls only gt the oppurtunity to make Team Canada but the boys have so many diferent leagues i cant even count them. the only thing that matters with this is they need the skills and physical abilites that match the boys only then would they be successful.

  5. Well, ultimately, I think that it should be about hockey, and hockey alone. Make all teams “co-ed” and rather than having one girls team and one boys team, have 2 teams where the best 20 players go to team 1, and the rest go to team 2, regardless of gender.

    Part of the problem is that we currently label teams “girls” or “boys” … we should simply call them teams, and put the best players on them.

  6. i think girls should be allowed because everyone should be treated equaly and if not this is horse shit

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