The recent cap on the number of skaters allowed Atlantic University Sport men’s hockey teams could be a benefit to St. Thomas’ men squad.
“It’s a significant rule change for the conference,” said St. Thomas University athletic director Mike Eagles. “I think it’s going to add a little parity to the league.”
The number of skaters has been set at 21, but the number of goaltenders remains unlimited.
The rule takes effect next season. Previously, teams were allowed as many players as desired on their roster, often creating an uneven playing field in the eight-team conference.
Some teams have recruited more than 30 players in recent years. STU head coach Troy Ryan said some teams recruited players just so other teams couldn’t have them.
“I think that’s completely morally, ethically wrong so we’ve got to get away from that.”
Still, with fewer roster spots available, many players will be scrambling for places to play next year, including players recruited this season.
“I feel bad for those players that were committed to this year,” said Ryan, “and next year they’re going to be scrambling looking for a place to play.”
St. Thomas voted for the motion, but the University of New Brunswick did not. “We weren’t in favour of doing it, both at my level and the directors level and our coach wasn’t in favour of doing it,” said UNB athletic director John Richard. “We actually voted against the motions but there was obviously a strong majority at both the coaches level and the athletic directors’s level to implement it so that’s how it went through.”
One gripe Richard has is that the two other CIS conferences that compete for the national championships won’t be encumbered by the same rule.
“We didn’t support the idea of having a unique cap in our conference when there’s not a cap in the Ontario-Quebec conference or in Canada West,” Richard said.
UNB cut their women’s hockey program in 2008 to save an estimated $225,000, while directing resources to their men’s program. St. Thomas still run an AUS level women’s hockey program.
Ryan believes the new restrictions on the number of skaters will help keep budgets under control.
“The cost of running teams now at this level get very expensive whether it’s just equipment or sticks; so if you’re able to run your program and carry 10 fewer players, you’re going to have a lot of value in that.”
Richard points out that the universities, not the AUS, made the decision.
“The AUS office and staff implement the rules and enforce the rules… they don’t necessary come up with the rules. It was driven by the schools,” he said.
For Eagles, it comes down to competition within the league.
“The intent was to try for our schools to manage their rosters, and their budget, but also to try and level the playing field a little bit in the conference.”