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By the Book

by Archives February 8, 2006

Quebec has its own conference for football, basketball and rugby. Hockey is missing from this list, and I don’t understand why.

Yes, women’s hockey has a Quebec conference, but a closer look will show that there are two Quebec teams and two Ontario teams in it: Concordia, McGill, Ottawa and Carleton. This is not exactly high representation for Quebec considering that, besides Ottawa and Carlelton, Ontario has its own conference with nine teams. Not to mention the six in Canada West and the eight from Atlantic Canada.

With CEGEP women’s hockey becoming a bigger and bigger source of talent for the game, the lack of French universities in the CIS women’s hockey field means that for most of these talented athletes, the last hockey they will play is in CEGEP. That is unless they want to pursue professional options or an English-language University education, either in Canada or the United States.

This is bogus, in my humble opinion. I understand the reluctance on the part of the French universities to add men’s hockey teams because they would be in direct competition with the QMJHL. There are also professional leagues in Quebec which compete for those players.

However, women’s hockey is a very competitive field in the CIS and I think that the French schools would have instant success. There are so many talented women hockey players who choose to pursue an education at a French university and have the potential to become a student-athlete.

An example? Look at the St. Jerome Cheminots. The team has not lost a game over the course of the past three seasons, but a majority of their players do not pursue university hockey. This is because the majority of players are French and choose to go to a French school. If French universities in Quebec started women’s hockey programs they would give these players more years to develop their skills while getting a university education. This would give a lot of players the opportunity to extend their hockey careers instead of stopping it at the CEGEP level, especially now that the CEGEP league is at an all-time high.

The CEGEP league has become such a pool of talent for the CIS teams in Quebec and for schools in the United States that the French universities should start their own teams. If not for the school’s profile, at least for the elite hockey players coming out of French CEGEP’s who choose an education in French rather than pursuing a hockey career. Why not give them the same choice as English players across Canada and the United States? Every other sport does it, and a quick look at both the McGill and Concordia women’s hockey teams will show that a lot of francophone players are choosing the English route. It does make the two schools more attractive to the players coming out of CEGEP, but I still believe that the same phenomenon that is going on in football right now can happen in women’s hockey.

As the CEGEP league gains more and more popularity and prestige, there will be more great players you will have coming out of the system. If no French universities in Quebec bite the bullet and try to change, we may never know how good some of these players can be. They won’t have the opportunity to attend their university of choice and also play the game that they love.

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