Saint Mary’s Huskies Women’s hockey team has been cut due to financial constraints. The decision was finalized last week but was announced on March 18, 2011.
The team is currently ranked 5th in the AUS. Last year they won the AUS championships. At CIS they lost in the bronze medal game leaving them 4th in the country –the highest ranking they have ever had.
The annual operating budget for the women’s team is $60 000 while the men’s operating budget is $75 000. Steve Sarty, athletic director at SMU, says that the Women’s Hockey team was the third most expensive sports team after Men’s Hockey and Men’s football.
“We did look at every one of our varsity teams to see what we could possibly do to save the five to 10 percent that was asked of us from the finance department,” says Sarty. “It’s not a matter of choosing a men’s or women’s team. It’s a complicated procedure of looking at cost verses revenues.”
Head coach Lisa Jordan was informed of the decision Friday morning. “Obviously I’m really surprised. I didn’t see this coming whatsoever,” she says. “I wasn’t given any notification that this was even a possibility until my meeting this morning so I’m pretty shocked right now.”
Jordan does not think that the cut was made with sexist intent. “I don’t think anybody had in their mind that they were going to target a women’s program,” she says. “It’s just disappointing that the trends out there. It’s the second varsity sport to get cut from Saint Mary’s recently — and it’s another female program.”
Her sister, and head coach of Dalhousie’s Women’s hockey team, Lesley Jordan sees equity issues in the cut. “From an outsider’s perspective, you can’t help but see the inequity in it,” she says. “They have 180 roster spots for male athletes and only 110 spots for females yet Saint Mary’s has a 60% female student body population. It doesn’t make sense that they are offering more opportunities for the men then the females. That in itself speaks to the equation openly and honestly.”
WIth this team cut, Both coaches noted the lack of female coaches at SMU. “Every coach at Saint Mary’s is male. They don’t have one female coach on staff so I think it reeks of inequity to be honest,” says Dal’s Jordan.
At SMU, players are being supported if they wish to transfer schools to continue playing hockey. “There’s a lot of anger, they didn’t anticipate this anymore than I did. They made the decision to come to Saint Mary’s based on a lot of reasons, playing hockey being one of them, and that opportunity doesn’t exist anymore. I think they feel pretty angry about that,” said SMU’s Jordan.
“It’s kind of ironic because women’s hockey is growing astronomically while the men’s side has been stagnant for years.,” says Dal’s Jordan.
Women’s hockey has had significant growth. In 2003-04 Hockey Nova Scotia had 16,800 males enrolled in hockey programs and 1,967 females enrolled. In 2008-09, only 15,262 males were enrolled — a decrease of over a thousand — while the women’s enrollment nearly doubled in that same time period with 2,675 women playing the game.
Other conferences have been adding teams to match this growth. “To see programs cut here when others in the OUA are adding teams, we seem to be going against the grain,” says SMU’s Jordan.
Jordan has been coaching SMU for 14 years and finds it difficult to keep Canadian athletes playing varsity sports in Canada. “This decision means there are fewer opportunities for female players to stay in Canada,” she says. “I think the AUS women’s hockey teams have been really diligent in improving our level of play and be are considered, as a conference, on par with the other three conferences across the association,” she said. “Our conference is much more competitive and teams coming out of our conference are legitimate national contenders.”
SMU’s cut will impact Dal says Jordan. “I think it has a huge impact on us and on female hockey in general. We had a great rivalry with Saint Mary’s. My sister coaches there and our players are friends with each other. It’s been competitive and it’s been a healthy rivalry,” she says.
Jordan has talked to Dalhousie administrators and does not expect cuts like St Mary’s here. “I have spoken to my bosses and they’ve reassured me that our sport is stable and heading into next season there is no need to be concerned that something like this could be happing to our program,” she says.
SMU now has six female varsity sports and six male varsity sports. There are: basketball, soccer, track and field, and cross-country for both men and women. Women also have the opportunity to play volleyball, rugby and field hockey while the men can play hockey and football.
“The ‘fair’ comment is a bit subjective because we now have six varsity sports for men and six varsity sports for women,” says Sarty, “I didn’t have a guy call me last year and say that it was unfair we had more women’s teams than men’s teams.”