A Paradise hockey player was denied a tryout for the women’s team because she plays men’s hockey

Thirteen-year-old Ella Meade has been playing in the men’s hockey leagues since she was five years old. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

A teenage hockey player from Paradise says she’s not getting fair consideration for Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s top provincial team for girls under 16.

Last season, 13-year-old Ella Meade played for the Wolverines in the Don Johnson U13 AA Hockey League, a competitive men’s league in the St. John’s area.

“I like the intensity of the boys, I like the speed and I prefer to play with the boys,” Meade told CBC News on Wednesday.

Since the end of last season, Meade has focused on the provincial level for the spring, with her sights set on the HNL program.

The high performance program begins with a camp in the spring and narrows the age groups down to approximately 44 players each who move on to a provincial summer camp that takes place in August. From there the groups are again winnowed, up to 20 players for each age group’s team. These teams then compete in the Atlantic Challenge Cup, an Atlantic tournament held on Thanksgiving weekend with teams from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and New -Scotland.

But Meade said she was denied the chance to try out for the U16 women’s team because she was not previously registered for women’s hockey.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I think it’s kind of a useless rule.”

Meade, right, says she was denied the chance to try out for a provincial women’s hockey team because she plays men’s hockey. (Submitted by Wendy Meade)

Wendy Meade, Ella’s mother, said girls who don’t play a full season in registered women’s hockey can apply for a bye, but her daughter’s bye was denied.

“It’s a rule that Hockey NL enforces, and I guess they don’t change their rule,” she said. “It’s a bit disappointing because you have players who have big dreams.”

She said Ella has played on boys’ teams since she was five years old and it’s something she encouraged as a hockey parent in later years because that’s what her daughter wants to do.

Encourage parents

If Ella played on boys’ and girls’ teams, she’d be eligible for the HNL camp, Wendy Meade said, but playing on two teams at the same time takes a lot of commitment — and although she encourages her kids to fully committing to whatever teams they’re on, two teams, with two schedules, that’s a tough job.

“It’s just hard for parents to be on two hockey teams, practices are a lot,” she said.

She said she just wanted her daughter to have a fair chance to try out for the provincial team.

“I think that rule needs to change. Ella is not the only girl who is affected by this,” she said. “I’m sure there are other girls out there, and you’re trying to promote women’s hockey, and at the same time women have to go through all these hoops, exemptions, just to try out for a team.”

Meade says she enjoys playing in the boys’ league because of the pace and intensity. (Submitted by Wanda Meade)

Hockey NL declined to give an interview to CBC News, but sent a statement saying it is “committed to providing inclusive and equitable programming within the organization.”

In 2021, the organization created a policy that requires athletes participating in provincial team programs to be registered in the previous season on a club team in their respective division. HNL said the policy was aimed at increasing the number of female players playing in women’s club teams in the province.

The organization also said it reviews all policies annually to ensure they align with the organization’s goal of fostering “a safe, fun and inclusive hockey experience.”

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Catherine J. Martinez