The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

CIS offering more generous women's hockey scholarships in pilot project

  • Print

CALGARY - Canadian Interuniversity Sport has launched a women's hockey pilot project offering more scholarship money to see if it keeps athletic talent in the country.

Almost 4,000 Canadians are on NCAA rosters in the United States, including 400 female hockey players, according to new CIS chief executive officer Pierre Lafontaine.

In addition to tuition and fees, Canadian university women's hockey teams are now allowed to cover room and board. But they will operate under a financial cap limiting how many scholarships can be offered.

Lafontaine hopes the five-year Women's High Performance Hockey pilot project provides data which can be used to slow the flow of Canada's top student-athletes across the border.

To make it easier to return to the CIS from the NCAA, the rule requiring a Canadian athlete to sit out for a year if they switch was eliminated.

"If we offer scholarships, is it making a huge difference?" Lafontaine asked. "Is the scholarship the difference or is it something else? We'll have a better understanding of all of that within the pilot."

Lafontaine says the wheels were already in motion to make women's hockey a scholarship test case when he took over as CEO in January. It's also a sport that sees a significant exodus to the U.S.

Canada's under-22 women's team opened a three-game series against the U.S. in Calgary on Thursday.

Of the 22 players named to that team, 20 will play in the NCAA in 2014-15. One will play in the CIS for McGill University and one has yet to decide where she will play her post-secondary hockey.

High school athletes, and their parents, are often dazzled by the prospect of a "full-ride" scholarship to an NCAA school.

A New York Times article in 2008 reported the average annual female hockey scholarship at a Division 1 school to be $20,540. It's difficult for Canadian universities to compete for elite athletes like those on the under-22 women's hockey team.

While a school's reputation and location and the quality of the athletic and educational programs factor into an athlete's decision, money talks loudly.

Sweetening the scholarship package may get athletes to look closer at the CIS option. If it gets them on campus for a visit, that's when coaches can sell them on other qualities of the hockey team and the university.

"I think it's going to get more kids to take it seriously," University of Regina coach Sarah Hodges said. "The fact they can be offered full tuition and living expenses, it changes the game a whole lot.

"That's something we can offer now that we couldn't before. If we are able to get them here to visit and see what we offer, we're usually pretty successful."

"The intent would be that we would be able to keep some of the top players at home," York University women's coach Dan Church added.

"Of that top five per cent that's going to the NCAA, whatever the percentage is, we might be able to have some of those players playing at Canadian institutions."

The cap is 70 per cent of the total cost of tuition, school fees, room and board for 14 players. Each team's cap will be different because those costs differ from province to province.

A coach can offer a few players large scholarships, or spread the money around with "partial scholarships" to more players.

"There is a reporting mechanism put in place," Lafontaine said. "We want to make sure they don't break the cap.

"Your room and board, tuition and fees are $11,000 for example. I can't go and say 'You know what? I'm going to give you $14,000.'"

As an example, Hodges says a player's tuition and fees at the University of Regina over five years costs about $20,000. Add room and board and it jumps to between $50,000 and $60,000.

Hodges says giving a scholarship for the latter would be the exception rather than the rule.

"For the coaches, we're going to have to be pretty selective of about who they're offered to," she said. "If they're offered one of these in Canada, it's still pretty special."

All 33 CIS women's hockey teams can participate in the pilot project, but not all are doing so. The university, or the team, has to come up with the money to cover the increased cost of scholarships under the program.

An informal survey of women's hockey teams indicated 10 were either already using the pilot project as a recruiting tool or planned to do so, while 11 schools said they were not involved.

"Just because they've changed the rules doesn't mean the money pot is there," Church said.

Blayre Turnbull of Stellarton, N.S., is entering her senior year at the University of Wisconsin. Canada's under-22 assistant captain was recruited by Atlantic universities, but the NCAA was more financially attractive.

"Obviously they put some offers out on the table that I wasn't offered by CIS schools," Turnbull said. "Being offered full scholarships definitely has an effect. Why would someone want to pay for school when they have the option to get it for free?

Had room and board been covered by a CIS team, the forward said she would have given Canadian university hockey "more of a shot than I did."

"If the CIS has the opportunity to say 'hey, we have a full scholarship for you, come check out our school, we have a great academic program,' yeah, I would have looked into it," Turnbull said.

Calgary defenceman Brittney Fouracres is the lone CIS player on the team. She's entering her fourth year of chemical engineering studies at McGill, but she was also recruited by the NCAA.

"For me, the schooling was important and staying at home was important," Fouracres said.

"I know when girls are looking at NCCA or CIS, a lot of it does come down to the full ride. The whole idea that everything is paid for and your parents don't have to cover a thing, or you don't have to cover a thing, or no student loans, that's an attractive thing right now in this economy."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How many goals do you think Evander Kane will score this year?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google