Shawville minor hockey teams put in uncompetitive situation, say parents
Pontiac March 13, 2023
Some parents of players with the Shawville and District Minor Hockey Association (SDMHA) have expressed disappointment over the fact this year’s Shawville’s Lion’s M-13 (Peewee) and M-11(Atom) teams were forced to compete in the B league’s playoffs despite playing in the C league, a less challenging level, during most of the regular season.
The controversy stems from the rules governing how minor hockey teams are placed in different leagues in Quebec.
When creating teams for the regular seasons, minor hockey associations in Quebec are required by Hockey Quebec to fill out the higher level leagues first, (A and B) before they can fill out the C level, according to Hockey Outaouais President Pierre Montreuil. If there are too few players in a region, their associations can’t start the season with a C-level team, regardless of the skill of their players.
This creates a problem for small hockey associations like SDMHA because they might not have the talent necessary to fill teams that can compete at higher levels. However, if the team’s performance warrants it, teams can be moved down a level via a process known as derogation through Hockey Outaouais during the season.
This is what happened to SDMHA’s Peewee team during this year’s season, according to SDMHA parent Sherry-Lynn Daley. As the association lacked enough players to create a C team from the start of the season, the B team was derogated to C after losing two games, the first 19-0 and the second 21-1.
Derogation allows teams to complete at a more competitive level, according to Montreuil.
The SDMHA’s Atom league team received a similar derogation from B to C in their own league after their own non-competitive defeats.
However, after the regular season ended, the controversy started.
Late in the season, both SDMH’s Peewee and Atom teams were informed that they would be moved up to the B league for playoffs, despite playing at C, the level that fit their abilities, during the season.
Montreuil explained this is the case because while Hockey Quebec rules allow teams to be derogated to the C league while they’re within their home region, they must be put back up to the B league every time they go outside of it.
“When you leave the region, you go back to a B,” Montreuil said. “Anytime during the regular season, if they want to go to any tournament, they cannot go to a C, they have to go to a B.”
Montreuil added that all the derogated teams under Hockey Outaouais teams were informed that they would be moved back to the B for the playoffs in December 2022.
Montreuil said the SDMHA’s Peewee team was the only team to complain about the move out of the five teams moved back up after being derogated. He added that in response to the complaint, Hockey Outaouais applied to Hockey Quebec to make an exception for Shawville, but the request was denied.
Both SDMHA President Craig McCormick and Daley said in their understanding of the derogation process, teams would only be moved back up a league for the playoffs if they finished in the top three teams during the regular season. However, Shawville’s Peewee team was moved up despite finishing sixth out of ten in the regular season.
Montreuil says the rules are the rules, and that all associations know that teams will be put back into their original league once the regular season is over.
McCormick said he was only informed that the Peewee Lions would be moved back to B league after Christmas and immediately fought to overturn it, to no success.
“They’re not the caliber of B, we know that,” Montreuil said about the situation. “But this is the rule. They had the option of playing the whole season at the B level and get swamped the whole year. But they were given a chance to play the full year at a lower level and have some fun. Only in the playoffs do they go back to the B level, where they will lose the first two games and that’s the end of the season. It’s only two games in the playoffs.”
Parents on the other hand are far more critical of the situation.
“As a concerned parent, this decision is unfathomable,” wrote Daley. “Hockey Quebec’s mission statement is to ‘Provide a safe and accessible environment, as well as programs focused on learning and fun for all hockey players in Quebec’ and I believe that the rule of bumping them back up to the B level for playoffs is a direct violation of the mission statement. The pace of the game at the B level is faster and more coordinated, not only putting our players at risk for injury (no longer making it a ‘safe and accessible environment’), but it also contradicts the statement ‘fun for all hockey players in Quebec’. How can Hockey Outaouais not only not align with the core mission statement of its governing body but also disregard the clear evidence that our team is not a B-level team capable of winning against teams that have earned their place at this level, but also destroy the morale of our players, eliminating every ounce of fun for the game? Allowing them to drop down at the beginning of the season to play against teams of a similar caliber was a great decision, so it’s confusing to me how setting them up for success by derogating them down only to bump them back up for playoffs at a different level promotes ‘learning and fun for all hockey players in Quebec’.”
McCormick, whose son was subjected to the same situation when he was younger said it demoralizes kids and pushes them away from hockey.
“I joined the board to make hockey fun for our kids and this is not,” McCormick said.
McCormick and Daley also said they were frustrated by the process of appealing the move.
“I got one-word answers or didn’t get responses,” McCormick wrote about his inquires to keep the team in the C league.
It is still unclear where the ultimate responsibility for putting the Shawville teams back in the B league lie and if any of the three organizations over the SDMHA (Ligue de hockey régionale de l’Outaouais, Hockey Outaouais or Hockey Quebec) had the authority to keep the Shawville teams in the C league for the playoffs.
THE EQUITY hopes to follow up to answer this question.
Montreuil for his part said he agrees with Shawville’s complaint and will try to lobby Hockey Quebec and the other regional presidents in the province to change the rules so teams have the opportunity to always play teams within their skill level. He said discussions about rule changes for the future will happen in May and June.
Montreuil also added that small associations like Shawville already have options that larger associations like Gatineau do not. According to Montreuil, associations with a lot of players don’t even have the option of derogating teams during the regular season, regardless of their skill level.
Daley and McCormack both expressed a hope that by making this issue public, pressure will build on Quebec’s Hockey organizations to make the game more fun for everyone.
“I was not upset that a concerned parent reached out to let people know what’s been going on for years. We are not asking for our kids to play at a lower level so they can win everything, but just to let them play and enjoy hockey and cherish these memories,” McCormick concluded.
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