Sunday, February 25, 2024

Extreme malaise at Canadian university hockey

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Alan Binder
Alan Binder
"Alcohol scholar. Twitter lover. Zombieaholic. Hipster-friendly coffee fanatic."

At the end of last January, Radio Canada Sports published the preliminary results of a survey that caused an uproar in college sports circles. Nearly forty head coaches from established programs in nine provinces participated in this broad consultation.

It found that universities with men’s and women’s hockey programs within their sports departments dedicate, on average, 50% less financial resources to the women component. This was surprising in 2022.

We’re taking advantage of the last weekend of the Canadian college hockey season to publish other important parts of our survey. The results obtained reveal a certain disorganization among the actors in this environment in accomplishing their task.

In relative anonymity, the country’s top men’s teams, including the UQTR Patriotes, are vying for the national championship in Nova Scotia through Sunday. And last week in Charlottetown, the Concordia Stingers led by Julie Chu and Caroline Owlette won their first Canadian title since 1999.

However, almost all hockey fans know almost nothing about what is being done within the U Sports network. Let’s face it and admit that Canada has a very ambiguous relationship with its college hockey network.

Hockey has long been recognized by science as a late-developing sport. Logically, college hockey should play a major role in the development strategy of hockey Canada. This applies to both men and women.

This is also what is happening among our neighbors to the south.

But in Canada, the men and women who lead college hockey programs face an entirely different reality.

At least 78.9% of them believe that they are not supported by sufficient budgets to ensure the smooth running of the Excellence Program.

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Our operation relies on the participation of a very large number of volunteers. It makes our environment very unstable. At the same time, I must admit that our team generates almost no income. We don’t have big crowds and no TV contract. Also, tuition fees are low. So it is difficult to allocate part of this money to sportssays a coach from an English-speaking university.

In fact, the operating budgets of most college teams are very tight. They range from $200,000 to $750,000 per season. On the other hand, teams whose budgets are at the top of the scale are the exception.

According to the statements of trainers, the average budget for the programs of English-speaking universities (men and women) is $340,000, and the budgets of French-speaking universities are $311,000. It is very thin. So many people have to cut back on necessities.

For example, more than 68% of coaches are supported by a team of at least three assistants. However, the vast majority of these assistants are either volunteers or part-time employees. In fact, less than a third of college hockey teams (29%) have a full-time assistant coach.

To guide college student athletes towards excellence, human resources should be the cornerstone. Excellence is an extreme approach. The more volunteers there are, the more likely supervision will be ineffective because they share their time with other jobs.says a trainer for a women’s program.

In the position of goalkeeper coach, which is necessary in a high-level program, 61% are volunteers.

We are far from the reality of major junior teams or US college programs, which for the most part rely on three full-time coaches.

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If this is the case for frontline athletic training offered to student-athletes, it is not hard to imagine how support team teams (equipment manager, sports therapist, etc.)

In addition, another need often expressed by coaches relates to scholarships for student-athletes. To hire the best candidates, we will badly need a better scholarship programAnother English-speaking coach notes.

Given, let’s say modest, the conditions in which most college hockey teams operate, one wonders if clarifying (or updating) their role in Hockey Canada’s development plan would encourage universities to better fund and structure their programs.

Coaches for the men’s and women’s teams were asked to rate, to the best of their knowledge, how their sport fits into Hockey’s Canada’s strategic plan.

The majority of men’s program coaches (52%) responded that college hockey isn’t really a concern for the National League. Another large portion of these coaches (41.2%) believe college hockey is there to provide an exciting level of play for players coming from the junior ranks. Only 6% think college hockey is a priority for the league.

U Sports men’s hockey should be recognized as the highest level of amateur hockey in Canada. But Hockey Canada is underrated and misrepresentedsays the coach.

U Sports should be seen as the regular next step in developing a major junior player. Junior hockey offers scholarships to its players, but other than that there is almost no connection between junior hockey and college hockey. Bridges must be built between themAnother boss argues.

Hockey Canada’s promotion and support for U Sports hockey is laughable. We are talking about the best levels of hockey on offer in Canada, with the exception of professional hockey. And nobody sees it. Nobody knows about itAnother boss regrets.

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For women’s team coaches, nearly 48% believe women’s college hockey is not part of Hockey Canada’s interests. Nearly 29% believe that U Sports women’s hockey offers an alternative for hockey players who have not won scholarships to study/play at a US university.

This is a sad and unacceptable situation.

Every two years, a Canadian university team is formed to represent the country at universities, and it does not receive any financial support from Hockey Canada.

When Hockey Canada invites players from Canadian universities to the training camp for its development team, those players must make ends meet, unlike others. […] U Sports players are treated as a lower category. This has a deterrent effect on network selection [canadien ou américain]Supports Women’s Program Coach.

Obviously, the comments made by coaches at U Sports would be much different if they were involved in an organization with clear values ​​and goals.

And when I talk about a organisationI’m mainly referring to Hockey Canada, whose overall development plan seems frozen somewhere between the 1970s or 1980s.

Perhaps U Sports executives should step up and knock on the door of the National League and ask the killer question: Why do we have college hockey leagues?

Because at the moment, from the bottom of the pyramid to its top, it is not at all clear.

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