With four games to go in the season, it must be frustrating for the Concordia Stingers and other OUA East hockey teams to look across the conference to the West Division where the Laurier Golden Hawks, sporting a 7-16-1 record, have practically clinched the final spot in the divisional playoffs.
By comparison, Ryerson, with a record of 11-10-3, would miss the playoffs if they started today. In the East, only four points currently separate the fourth seed (Toronto) from ninth-place Ryerson. Concordia is sitting in seventh, tied with Queen’s with 26 points, only one point up on Ryerson.
But such is life in the CIS. Due to geographical circumstances, unbalanced conferences and schedules are something that all teams have to deal with.
Concordia’s head coach, Kevin Figsby, is not frustrated with the fact that, this season, the East is better than the West, pointing out it is “cyclical” and that in past years the West has been better than the East.
The biggest change Figsby would like to see, though, is the balancing of the conference schedule. As it stands, Concordia plays four games a year against McGill and UQTR (perennially strong teams), while teams like Queen’s and Toronto play four games a year against RMC (a perennially weaker team). All teams in each conference also have to play four “crossover” games, often resulting in long bus rides. This year Concordia had to play Windsor, a 12-hour drive away.
“We’ve got the same teams competing for the same [playoff spots] with an unbalanced schedule,” explained Figsby. He also pointed out that the West Division has nine teams vying for eight spots, compared to the East where 10 teams are jockeying for the same number of positions.
Changes have been proposed during meetings, but ultimately the majority has ruled to leave the present system in place.
“The coaches’ association has looked at [changing the system],” said Figsby. “We’ve debated over it and we’ve voted over it. There’s always a diverse conversation that goes on around the table, and obviously for competitive reasons some people don’t want to go to a full conference schedule. You can also look at the [West Division] and they’re pretty content having eight out of nine teams make it, so why would they vote to do anything different?”
For Figsby, perhaps the most frustrating thing is not having more universities in Quebec with men’s hockey programs, thus making it possible for a Quebec conference to exist, and sparing schools like Concordia, McGill and UQTR trips to Ontario. “I still can’t figure out how we can have as much passion about hockey in Quebec, and have one francophone school [in Quebec] with men’s hockey,” he said referring to UQTR.