Regional and provincial winners for six sports won’t be decided this school year
There will be no NSSAF regional and provincial championships this year.
The Glace Bay Panthers boys hockey team was supposed to host the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Division 1 championship next month, but with the high school season put on hold, that tournament won’t be happening.
On Wednesday, the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation officially cancelled regional and provincial championships in six school sports: Hockey, basketball, snowboarding, skiing, curling and wrestling.
Goaltender Kaine Drake was in his final season with the Panthers before the season was sidelined due to the teachers work-to- rule job action in the province on Dec. 5. He was named the Cape Breton High School Hockey League’s top goaltender and playoff MVP last season.
“It’s upsetting,” said the 17-year-old Grade 12 student from New Waterford. “It was our first time to host provincials and in my opinion, I thought we had the team to take home the banner and win the first time at home and ever in Glace Bay High’s history.”
The annual Panther Classic tournament was also cancelled this year. Many of the displaced high school players are skating in a local midget ‘X’ league instead.
“It’s tough for the school and even the community of Glace Bay,” said Drake. “To see the little kids in the stands watching us, they love the game just as much as we do.”
Stephanie O’Neill, who coached the Riverview Royals girls basketball team, said it’s disappointing her team won’t get a chance to represent the school at the provincial level.
The Royals won the Division 1 Highland Region banner last season and hoped for a repeat. Riverview had five seniors on its roster.
“It’s very disappointing for all the athletes, however, we’re in support of the teachers and they had to do what they had to do,” said O’Neill, who’s now coaching in Basketball Cape Breton’s U18 girls league that includes many displaced high school players. “Luckily, Basketball Cape Breton came into play and we were able to salvage somewhat of a season to continue with our games.”
NSSAF executive director Stephen Gallant said although it wasn’t an easy decision, it came down to time.
The NSSAF oversees 19 different school sports. There are boys and girls teams and also three divisions in each sport. Divisions are based on school size. The NSSAF did look at the possibility of extending seasons.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces and parts so to extend any season has a ripple effect in a whole bunch of ways,” Gallant said, explaining you run into conflicts for gym space, planned school trips and other school-related activities.
“School sport is an important piece of school life, it’s not the only piece of school life,” he said, noting as winter school sports wind down you have other school sports starting up, such as badminton, table tennis, rugby, softball, etc.
Gallant said this can create overlap situations for athletes, coaches, volunteers and school administrators.
“It’s a whole network and we just couldn’t push things back,” he said. “So when you can’t push them back the question is how do we get them in? Basketball, the regional championships were supposed to be last weekend, so you’re talking about 81 boys teams, 81 girls teams, how do you do that in two weeks? It just simply isn’t possible.”
Gallant said there is also the question of determining what teams would return to the NSSAF fold as some teams left school sports for other options, hockey being an example. In January, Hockey Nova Scotia, with the assistance of local minor hockey associations, started up a midget ‘X’ league for sidelined hockey athletes. Midget ‘X’ provincials are being played at the SEDMHA tournament in Halifax, March 31-April 3, which conflicts with the timing of Division 1 high school provincials, Gallant said. Division 2 and 3 hockey provincials were to go the weekend before SEDMHA, with regionals having wrapped up by March 10 according to the original NSSAF schedule.
“You also have March break, which is a week at the end and the beginning that historically we don’t do school sports because people have travel plans,” Gallant said.
On Tuesday, the Liberal government passed legislation that imposes a contract on teachers and disallows any strike action, including work to rule. A memo that day sent to teachers from the NSTU regarding teacher responsibilities post work to rule said teachers “may use their individual professional discretion in determining the extent of their involvement” in things such as extracurricular activities.
Goaltender Kaine Drake of New Waterford, shown last season as a member of the Glace Bay Panthers of the Cape Breton High School Hockey League. The Grade 12 student and his teammates were supposed to host the NSSAF Division 1 boys championship, but regional and provincial championship tournaments were cancelled for six different sports on Wednesday, including hockey.