ELMSDALE: The coach and general manager of the HERH Tigers Hockey team feel student-athletes are being used as “political pawns” by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) in their dispute with the province.
Gerald Doutre and Bud Davies support the teachers in their fight for better classroom conditions, but are disappointed their dispute with the provincial government is coming at the cost of scholarships and scouting opportunities for student-athletes, especially those in senior year of high school.
“The only ones getting hurt here are the students,” said Davies.
Doutre said it’s not just about playing hockey.
“This is a huge community based team supported by the community, teams across the province spend money in rinks; officials; restaurants; hotels; buses,” said Doutre. “There’s a lot of money involved here and for that not to be happening is a big dissatisfaction with not only high school hockey players, but the businesses as well.”
The Tigers program began three years ago when an community volunteers saw a need for an elite post-minor hockey opportunity for high school kids. the Tigers hockey team was born out of that.
“It’s been a huge success,” said Doutre. “We’re kind of worried now of the future of this program, because it is quite young, with the work-to-rule by the NSTU and the negotiations going on with the provincial government.
“We feel that the kids are being used by the union as pawns,” added Davies, coach of the squad. “We don’t care for that at all. We support the teachers, we support the principals,w e support the school, but first and fore most we support the kids. That’s our number one priority.”
Hockey Nova Scotia, as well as Basketball Nova Scotia, have created each their own leagues to allow players who have nowhere else to play to do so. The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation (NSSAF) has agreed to allow those leagues to occur.
Doutre, the team’s manager, did want to give a kudos to the NSSAF for their decision to allow players to play in private leagues.
“We’re very happy Basketball N.S. and Hockey N.S. have stepped up to do this,” he said. “We won’t be allowed to use the HERH Tigers jerseys, but we will be in a league that plays 12-15 games.
“At the end of the day, this is being done so the kids can play hockey.”
MacNeil spoke about the impact not playing as a result of the work-to-rule has had on players like himself.
“We love the game and when we got the news about the work-to-rule and we couldn’t play hockey anymore, we were all devastated,” he said. “We’re really excited to get back on the ice (with the new league).”
He said there are a few that are being scouted for scholarships and future teams, like university hockey.
MacNeil said some of the players keep up their marks and attendance so they can play the sport they love, whatever it may be.
Doutre said the students may be missing out on the largest high school hockey tournament in Canada, held in Moncton, N.B. beginning Jan. 5.
“There’s post-secondary bursaries given out at that tournament which our players have received in the past,” he said. “They’re missing out on scouting and playing the game they love.”
The message the three would like to send is that they support the teachers, the NSSAF, and Hockey N.S., but more the unions action are unnecessary.
“We do think that the union is unfairly using the students across the province as political pawns,” said Doutre.
“We would just like to see them let the boys and girls get back to playing hockey or their other sports,” added Davies. “This has nothing to do with what goes on in the classroom. Let the kids play.”