Monday, 7 March 2011

Challenging The System

It seems to be an age-old problem that we can't get past in society: boys vs. girls. There is a serious misconception that girls cannot compete with boys on the same level in sports, and, therefore, should be banned from competitions that are for men. This issue made national headlines when a girl from Iowa qualified for the Iowa state wrestling tournament and faced a young man who decided that he couldn't engage the woman in "combat" on the mat due to religious beliefs. I'm not passing judgment on this young man's decision as I feel that everyone with any religious beliefs should be able to live by those beliefs, but why are we so against girls playing against boys in any competition if they have shown the ability to qualify for the competition?

There was a report published from the Times Colonist in Victoria, British Columbia on Saturday that showed a glaring problem with how this inequality has affected one man's livelihood. Rob Shaw wrote the article that talks about how one man went to bat for a girl's hockey team, and the result of his efforts.

The president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association has been suspended indefinitely for contravening the wishes of Vancouver Island officials in a situation involving a peewee girls team's participation in provincial championships.

Andrew Holenchuk said he was stripped of his title as president, and barred from coaching or any official duties, by the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association, in what has become a bitter dispute over a team of 12- and 13- year-old girls.

Holenchuk said he was trying to give the girls a fair chance to play, after the Island association failed to create a team for the tournament.

But Island hockey president Mark Kenny said Holenchuk "worked around us in secret" to get provincial approval and must be punished for not following the rules.

The team at the centre of the dispute - Victoria peewee A, or Tier 1, girls team - won last year's provincial championships. The majority wanted to return to defend their title this month in Clearwater.

Kenny and the Island association rejected their request because it didn't fit into new rules that said female teams should only be organized by geographic "zone."

Under the new zoned format, no division A peewee girls teams were actually created. That meant none were destined for the provincial championships.

Holenchuk and his association did an end-run around the Island association, taking the request directly to the provincial organization, B.C. Hockey, which overruled the Island officials and sanctioned the girls team.

"At the end of the day you've got to do everything you can to give these kids opportunities and in my opinion they've been denied those opportunities," said Holenchuk.

Kenny briefly resigned as Island association president in protest, but ultimately rescinded his resignation.

He called a Feb. 19 executive meeting and indefinitely suspended Holenchuk.

"He acted contrary [to Island association rules] and the feeling of the executive committee was that some action had to be taken," said Kenny. "Unfortunately, Andrew was steering the ship so he had to be suspended."

Holenchuk, a Victoria area real estate agent, said the Island hockey association never publicly provided a reason for his discipline.

He is concerned that rumours and false interpretation of his indefinite suspension regarding a girls hockey team will damage his reputation in the community.

"I'm going to pursue this all the way," said Holenchuk. "It's crap what they did. It's a complete abuse of power."

It could be defamation of character if it goes the wrong way.

"I'm hoping this will open up a lot of eyes to Vancouver Island hockey executives' ... way of thinking. They've got to take politics and egos out of it and focus on what's best not only for the boys but for the girls."

B.C. Hockey, which oversees regional and district associations, said it doesn't have the jurisdiction to interfere with the suspension unless a formal appeal is filed.

"It's really a decision made at a district level," said executive director Barry Petrachenko.

"If the members of the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association felt this decision was a poor one, they in fact could go to their board and deal with that within their constitution and bylaws."

Holenchuk said he's already writing his appeal to B.C. Hockey. The girls team, meanwhile, remains cleared to play in the provincial championships.
There is only one reason that I can think of when it comes to the reasons why the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association would want to prevent the girls from participating: body-checking. Peewee hockey is the level that the British Columbia Amateur Hockey Association has selected to begin body-checking, according to Hockey Canada, so there might be a push to help protect the girls from the physical aspect of the game.

If this is the case, this needs to be stated up front by the VIAHA. But it wasn't, and now it appears that the VIAHA has some sort of grudge against the girls based upon their gender alone. That, readers, is what we call "discrimination", and the VIAHA knows this. The only course of action they could take without being labeled as "discriminatory" would be to suspend the advocate for the girls. That advocate was Mr. Andrew Holenchuk, Victoria area real estate agent by day, and president of the Victoria Minor Hockey Association in his spare time.

He was needed for a Victoria peewee A girls team as they had no competition to play against thanks to new rules. So the girls asked Mr. Holenchuk to see if there was anything he could do. He did exactly what anyone in his position would do - he took the girls' case to BC Hockey, the governing body of hockey in British Columbia. They approved the girls' application for the tournament, and all was ready to go. Or so it seemed.

If the VIAHA was worried about safety, that's all they had to say, and I would have been ok with them preventing the girls from participating. I'm not saying I'd fully agree, but at least there's a reasonable explanation for the decision.

However, trying to prevent these talented girls from playing because of geographical rules and their gender is not only petty, but it's absolutely pathetic. And suspending the president of the hockey association is not only asinine, it reeks of desperation for vengeance in having their "rules" overruled by hockey's governing body.

Let the kids play regardless of their genders or location. The more players you include, the better the chances of developing top-flight hockey players.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


D.M.Vasso said...

I get the body checking concern, so I think this can be solved by making it illegal in woman's hockey. I know that during the Winter Olympics the woman's team were not allowed to body check. I'm not sure if it was illegal, but it was definitely a penalty.

Andrew Holenchuk said...

Appreciate your posting. I'm the guy that is still suspended. Point of clarification..... The VMHA Peewee A Female team is playing in an all girls tournament, no boys.

Kenny (VIAHA Prez) also stated we did things in "Secret", never the case. VIAHA knew our intentions regarding our Peewee Female team in May, again in September when we registered this team. We left numerous emails requesting a meeting, but they did not respond, nor meet.

We appreciate BC Hockey's support with our Peewee girls team!

Again, thanks for your support!!
Andrew Holenchuk