When the University of New Brunswick women’s club hockey team, the Red Blazers, was promoted to the varsity level, the university’s club team was scrapped.
Makayla Oatway, a St. Thomas University graduate who played on the club team, was not surprised to hear of the loss when the team was promoted.
“This is a bummer for sure, because all the girls on the [team] won’t be able to play women’s hockey at a competitive level,” said Oatway, “At a level where they can still be challenged as athletes and still grow and improve with the game.”
Andy Campbell, the UNB athletics communications manager, said the university doesn’t operate both varsity and club level sports at the same time.
“When the varsity team was reinstated, the club team ceased to exist. Women’s hockey continued, but at the varsity level,” he said.
In 2008, the UNB athletics department made some changes, moving six teams from competitive status to a club status. The women’s hockey team was one of them.
According to the university at the time, the varsity women’s hockey team was downgraded to a club team for financial reasons.
After the varsity team was downgraded, Sylvia Bryson, a UNB student and member of the team, filed a sexual discrimination complaint against the university for eliminating the women’s team.
But in 2015, after a long fought court case led by Bryson, it was ordered by the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board that the varsity team be reinstated.
Three years later, the team is up and running. John Richard, the director of UNB athletics, said it was not a quick process.
“The thing about this process taking several years is it allowed the club team to react and transition people out,” said Richard.
After playing on the UNB club team for four years, Oatway wasn’t surprised the team was eliminated.
“I’m not surprised the team was cut because they needed the resources we were using for the varsity team,” she said.
Third-year STU student, Jenna Barrett, played with UNB for two years. Barrett agreed that getting the varsity team back is exciting, but she said it also has its disadvantages.
“It cuts positions for girls like me, girls that enjoy competitive hockey and have skill, but that may not have made the varsity team,” she said.
The club team created positions for UNB and STU students, but now, Barrett said the elimination of the team has made her lose ice time.
“I really enjoyed playing on the club team. It was full of good hockey players and it was a very competitive league,” she said.
“It was upsetting that me and the girls that have continued to play, only play once a week versus five or more times a week with the club team.”