In the latest installment of Minor Hockey Madness™, a Quebec-based team of seven- and eight-year-old girls was kicked out of a boys’ tournament recently after it had already been accepted and paid its fees to play.
But the reason they were ousted from the Gatineau Novice Tournament in early March isn’t what you’re probably thinking. The Gatineau Dynamites were not expelled on the basis of their gender, but because they were simply too good for the competition. The fact that it coincided with International Women’s Day March 8 was an unfortunate coincidence, unless you see it as a triumph that the girls were kicked out because they would have shredded their competition.
Here’s the problem: because there is no girls’ hockey league in Gatineau, the Dynamites have to play in a league in Ottawa, which has a different classification system. The Dynamites play in a Novice B league in Ottawa, which organizers of the tournament thought would place them in the Novice C Division of the house league tournament in Gatineau with the boys. The problems arose when the Dynamites played an exhibition game against the Gatineau Cougars boys’ team prior to the tournament. The Dynamites won the game 7-0 and outshot the Cougars by a 31-1 margin. To give you an idea of how much better the Dynamites were than the other teams in their pool in the tournament, the Cougars advanced to the championship game and lost 4-1 to a team from St-Constant.
“The thing I want people to understand is we did not get rid of a female team,” said Hockey Gatineau president Luc Gauthier. “We got rid of a team with a bad classification.”
One then wonders: would it have been such a travesty to allow the Dynamites to play and roll over their opponents to win a championship? After all, even Gauthier acknowledged that the Dynamites would have been playing in the tournament had they not played that exhibition game. The results of that game were followed by complaints that the Dynamites would be too dominant for the C Division. Gauthier insists the same thing would have been done if it were a boys’ team in the position. But remember, we’re talking about seven- and eight-year-olds here who might have a tough time understanding why they were being kicked out a tournament the week before it started.
Would getting their lunches handed to them by a girls’ team have bruised these little psyches beyond repair? It’s doubtful. What this actually turned out to be is another example of (mostly) well-meaning adults losing all sense of perspective. Perhaps all of those other teams could have used their routs at the hands of the Dynamites as a learning experience and an opportunity to better themselves. But you see, parents get worked up about this kind of stuff. They really do. And that’s a huge part of the problem. Chances are, years from now their kids will remember the friends they made and the joy they got from the game more than getting routed in a tournament at the age of seven or eight.
“I was stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Gauthier said. “Because I had no room in the B level and I was not going to make one pool with more teams and another one with just four because people would have yelled over injustice. There’s not much I could do.”
For those of you who don’t have kids in hockey, even at the least competitive levels, it may be hard to fathom that parents would get rankled over this. But it happens. So well-meaning volunteers such as Gauthier have to make untenable decisions like this one that appeases nobody. Here’s an indication of how crazy this stuff is. When a girls’ team wants to play against boys, it has to get a ‘sub-classification’ from Hockey Quebec. Even for little kids in age groups where there is virtually no difference in skill level between boys and girls. “There’s a lot of people at fault here,” Gauthier said. “We’re at fault because we had to take them out of the tournament. But Hockey Quebec should at least send somebody down or ask a technical committee to evaluate the team before they give a sub-classification. That would help a lot.”
My word. If this were most other hockey jurisdictions in the world, this wouldn’t even be a problem because boys and girls that age would be playing in non-competitive formats that emphasize skill development over competition. But even if you’re going to have kids that age competing in tournaments, do you really need to kick a team out because it’s too good? Evidently, you do. This is all so crazy.
“(The Dynamites) are not happy and I understand,” Gauthier said. “I apologized about a thousand times. If I were in their shoes, I would have felt the same way.”