‘We want to meet your expectations’: Fredericton LUG hockey

Joshua Bernstein, a fourth-year University of New Brunswick student, felt there was an opportunity to bring LUG sports, Canada's largest campus sports league operator, to Fredericton. (Submitted: Joshua Bernstein)

Joshua Bernstein, a fourth-year University of New Brunswick student, said there was an opportunity to bring LUG sports to Fredericton after playing his first year in intramurals.

“I was shocked and appalled by how poorly run facilitated intramurals as a whole were, let alone hockey,” he said. 

LUG is the largest campus sports league operator in Canada and offers various teams for university students during each season: hockey, softball, spike ball, golf and basketball. Teams play locally against other teams in their division. 

In 2009, two students, Ethan Wright who attended Queen’s University and Ray ­­Abramson who attended Western University, were unsatisfied with the hockey programs offered at their schools and wanted to provide a higher quality option. 

They created LUG locally, then decided to develop their idea – turning LUG into multiple divisions and expanding across Ontario. 

Bernstein grew up playing quality representative hockey in Toronto, then attended Western University for his undergraduate degree where he joined an intramural team and a LUG team.

“[Playing LUG] was obviously a much better time and much better run,” he said.

Three years ago, Bernstein moved to Fredericton to pursue his law degree and his master’s in business. He said while playing intramurals his first year, his needs were not being fully met. But, he knew how to meet those expectations. 

“In a way, it was selfish but also virtuous for the rest of the university community,” he said. “I approached Ethan and Ray and said, ‘I doubt you have any idea what Fredericton New Brunswick is, but I’m there for school and there’s a huge market out here for hockey … everyone plays hockey.’”

He said that Wright and Abramson fully supported and trusted him, and shortly after, LUG launched in Fredericton. He and another student, Carter Cahill, were the local commissioners who would find teams, recruit players, organize the schedules, find referees and build connections with the local community for sponsorships. 

Fredericton’s first women’s division

There were six mens’ teams the first year and now entering their third-year, there are 12 teams total. Bernstein said although the teams are co-ed, there is enough interest in Fredericton to create an all-women division.

“Given how popular and how many people want to play hockey here, let alone women, they basically have their own league,” said Bernstein.

Other universities, such as Western, Queen’s and Ottawa have a women’s hockey league through LUG. Bernstein said it took those schools longer to kick-start their women divisions, but for Fredericton, it only took a few years.

“We’re doing very well with the growth level on the teams in general, but also inclusivity and diversity,” he said. 

Although most women signed up in groups of three or four and some signed up alone, there are four teams organized with 15 players on each. 

Bernstein said he hopes players will recruit their friends for next year.

The vision

Bernstein, who is now the general manager in Fredericton, will pass off his position after he graduates this year. They hired more staff and commissioners this year to help in its expansion and growth.

“We’re trying to teach them the skills necessary to keep this going and expand the skills I used to start [LUG in Fredericton,]” he said.

Although teams solely play locally against others in their division, Bernstein said they host a memorial-cup-style tournament for the winners of each division. This year, it will take place in Halifax and the teams invited will include Fredericton, Halifax, Antigonish, Wolfville and Prince Edward Island. The winner will then compete in London, Ontario against the other winners.

Bernstein said LUG’s goal is that everyone is enjoying their time on and off the ice – creating friendly rivalries. 

“If they’re not having a fun time, then we’re not doing our jobs,” he said.

After experiencing the “unfortunate reality” of intramurals, he understands the importance of a league that values their sport and players.

“We want to meet your expectations of what that amazing experience is going to be like.”