Mixed feelings to pilot project

(File photo by Kate Turner)

(File photo by Kate Turner)

Women’s hockey in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) could see a shakeup in recruitment and retention methods in the upcoming years.

The CIS is implementing a five-year women’s hockey pilot project, which will allow programs the ability to offer more to the student-athletes committing to their respective school.

This will allow universities to offer scholarships that are more than the current limits for the CIS conferences to attract young talent that would be more inclined to go south to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Scholarships can now cover the costs of room and board as well as books, easing the financial situation all university student-athletes are put through when they first arrive at school. This initiative is supposed to start in Jan. 2015, in which schools can begin promising more money to top-notch players.

This project has the potential to push the CIS in a new direction, according to the press release sent out in Nov. 2013, affecting recruiting habits of schools across Canada and how they distribute their scholarship cash among their players.

David Synishin, the head coach of the women’s hockey team at St. Francis Xavier University in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference, believes that the new initiative won’t have much of an impact on his recruitment come the following seasons. He believes that it would be difficult for the university to give that type of money out to student-athletes. Instead, he has decided to ease the financial pressure among all students.

“It’s not going to impact us as a team because we don’t have the dollars to do that. We like to spread our scholarship money around,” Synishin explained.

“I think that helps for maybe a little more of a well-rounded team and more depth.”

Head coach Rick Osborne of Wilfrid Laurier University’s hockey team in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference follows the same idea.

“I don’t think it would change my recruiting habits. I would still be looking for the kids with the right character, the kids who really want to be at Laurier and the kids who would really have a passion to put on that sweater and break down the wall for us,” he said.

One of the major advantages that this pilot project offers is the ability to offer more money to student-athletes. The individual cap that is currently limiting players is waived, as long as hockey teams don’t exceed the current team and school cap given for scholarship money.

Osborne doesn’t expect this will change his habits much either, but he will use the new rules to compliment his original strategy.

“What I would like to do is take advantage of the new rules to increase the funding for all of the players on our team so that we can maintain [that] everybody gets the same,” he said. “I don’t anticipate going out and being involved in any bidding wars in the near future unless something really weird happens to change that landscape.”

However, the same mindset does not occur throughout the CIS. In the Canada West University Athletic Association (CWUAA), head coach Howie Draper of the University of Alberta talks from past experience that student-athletes will go to the NCAA because they want to play with players at their skill level.

“[If athletes] they think they’re going to be the best, then they have to play with the best,” he said.

Draper intends to change up his strategy by altering the way he distributes money. With the project in effect, it will allow him to spend a little more money to attract high-calibre athletes that can compete at a national level.

“I think the idea at least from my perspective is to try and entice one or two athletes, very strong athletes that are playing at a very high level, to stay [in Canada],” Draper said.

Student-athletes are drawn to playing with other athletes of their calibre, and Draper forecasts that this initiative will aid in keeping that talent at home.

“Top talent draws top talent,” he said.

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