Article of the Week
Growing the Game in China: International Transfers and the Rules of Expansion - The Ice Garden
ed note: We decided to turn this one over to someone who knows more than either of us on this subject. Our guest contributor this week is Kirsten Whelan, who has followed Hockey Canada and the CWHL for over six years and has researched Hockey Canada meeting minutes dating back to 2007.
This week's article of the week attempts to tackle massive questions surrounding Canadian Women's Hockey League policy, Hockey Canada regulations, and the CWHL's expansion into China. The piece initially suggested that the league may have been violating Hockey Canada rules surrounding import limits in order to bolster the rosters of the well-funded Chinese teams. It has since been altered to more accurately reflect the rules for inter-branch play, but given the complex nature of the subject and how difficult some of this information is to find, I was asked to try to break down the process.
To start with, Hockey Canada By-law B7-A states that “[a] Team is deemed to be under the jurisdiction of the Branch in the geographic area in which it plays its home games”. Hockey Canada deals with Branches, or provincial governing bodies, within Canada, and with federations outside of Canada. This means that in interactions with Hockey Canada, a team based in Manitoba is under the jurisdiction of Hockey Manitoba and a team based in Minnesota is under the jurisdiction of USA Hockey.
The CWHL is administered by the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA), an Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) subsidiary member that governs women’s hockey in the province of Ontario. The OWHA is bound to administer its leagues, including the CWHL, in accordance with Hockey Canada regulations.
In order for a team based in one Hockey Canada Branch to operate in a league administered by another Hockey Canada Branch, the team must receive permission from both its Branch and the league’s Branch, as well as from the Hockey Canada Board of Directors (BoD) [By-law B7B]. As a league with teams based in three different Hockey Canada Branches (Hockey Alberta, Hockey Quebec, and the OWHA/OHF), this is a process that the CWHL has been engaging in from its onset.
When the Boston Blades joined the league in 2010-11, things got a little more complicated. No Hockey Canada (read: Canada-based) team can operate outside of Hockey Canada’s jurisdiction without permission from the Hockey Canada BoD and the Branch in whose territory the team is located [By-law B9]. For Canadian-based teams to play in Boston, then, they each require approval from the BoD and from their home Branches. At the same time, permission from USA Hockey, the BoD of Hockey Canada, and the OWHA is required in order for the Boston-based team to operate in the CWHL [By-law B10].
The same process through By-laws B9-10 is necessary in order to integrate the Kunlun Red Star and the Vanke Rays, which are under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Ice Hockey Association (CIHA). Motions to approve inter-jurisdiction play in accordance with these by-laws must be submitted to and approved by the Hockey Canada BoD each year in order for the CWHL to operate across provincial and national borders.
While the addition of the Kunlun Red Star was announced at a press conference on June 5, the second expansion team of the summer, the Vanke Rays, is all but formally announced. Given that the press conference announcing the Red Star took place just over a week after Hockey Canada’s 2017 Spring Congress (May 26-28), it’s likely that the team was approved then. With the seemingly late addition of the Vanke Rays into the fold and BoD meetings taking place between congresses, here’s a theory: Perhaps the lack of an official announcement from the league isn’t due to shoddy communications, but because it's following federation rules and awaiting formal approval.
The article also suggests that Chinese teams having different import limits than Canadian-based teams (since Chinese teams are under the CIHA's rules, not Hockey Canada's) would be unfair to CWHLPA members, but it's worth reiterating that these are club teams, not national teams. There's nothing inherently unjust about a team in China having several players from elsewhere. Keep in mind that compared to tens of thousands of female hockey players in Canada and the USA, only a few hundred women are registered in China. If they were held to only six players from the most advanced and well-resourced hockey programs in the world while everyone else could ice a full team of them, that would be unfair.
And, as Nafio points out: Players with the Chinese teams will be CWHLPA members, too.
The CWHL was founded by a players’ movement spearheaded by Sami Jo Small and led by a group including Ally Fox, Kathleen Kauth, Jayna Hefford, Mandy Cronin, Jennifer Botterill, Joanne Eustace, Kim McCullough, and Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux in the 2007 offseason as the original NWHL was falling apart. The initial goal was simply to ensure athletes a place to play during what was expected to be a one-year hiatus as the NWHL regrouped. Somehow it has endured and evolved (not without some growing pains!) into an international entity. As the league enters its 11th season it is facing new challenges its founders might not have envisioned. Covering a growing league with a sparsely documented history requires that we all ensure we get the narrative — be it positive or negative — right.
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