GO CANADA

SundayXtra - - HOCKEY - By Donna Spencer

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 stu­den­tath­letes 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 three­game 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 al­ter­nate 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.”

— The Cana­dian Press

Ap­prox­i­mately 400 Cana­dian women are play­ing col­lege hockey in the United States.

PHOTO CREDIT

CIS chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Pierre Lafon­taine hopes the five-year Women’s High Per­for­mance Hockey pilot project will pro­vide some help­ful in­for­ma­tion. Twenty of the 22 play­ers on the Cana­dian un­der-22 team that won world gold (left) will be at­tend­ing a...

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