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New Saskatchewan hockey rule limiting where girls can play has parents upset

Parents say a new rule restricting where girls from rural Saskatchewan can play hockey should be put on ice.

Parents say a new rule restricting where girls from rural Saskatchewan can play hockey should be put on ice.

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association has said that, starting in the 2018-19 season, girls under 17 who live outside Regina and Saskatoon won't be allowed to play for teams in those cities.

Parents in rural areas don't like the idea and a petition is circulating online to have the decision reversed.

They say the rule will prevent girls from competing with teammates of the same calibre, because there aren't enough players to form tiered teams.

The hockey association says there are plenty of girls in the country to make such a program work and associations have 16 months to organize themselves.

General manager Kelly McClintock says the rule will grow girls hockey once local associations get behind it.

"The onus of looking after female development and looking after female hockey players, as opposed to just allowing them to play co-ed and not offering any female teams ... will spur on associations to work together and more females will get involved in the game,” McClintock told Regina radio station CJME.

He suggested more girls would play hockey if they could participate at home. He also said skills are developed through practising and coaching, not from tiered games.

Parent Kristy Laird, who started the petition, doesn't agree.

"They'll play on unbalanced teams. You'll have players that are brand new, just putting on their skates, to elite players. You're not developing those girls properly."

Laird, whose daughter plays hockey in Saskatoon, is also concerned about numbers. She said the league her daughter is in can only field four teams, which include girls from rural areas.

"If you take away our rural people from Saskatoon, we're losing numbers and we're spreading them very thinly in rural areas."

The Saskatchewan Hockey Association had 650 girls playing in Saskatoon last year. Sixty-eight were rural players.

Of 429 players in Regina, 51 girls were from outside the city.

McClintock said a similar rule has been in place for boys for more than 25 years.

He noted that girls who play in Midget AAA — 17- and 18-year-olds — can still play wherever they want to.

(CJME, CTV Saskatoon)

The Canadian Press