Human rights complaint launched over girls' hockey time

There are two minor hockey leagues that play in Stephenville, and a local coach said girls that are allowed to play in both are given an unfair advantage. (CBC)

A volunteer minor hockey coach in Stephenville has filed a complaint with the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission about how girls are given an unfair league advantage.

Brent Watkins said there are two minor hockey leagues in Stephenville — a mixed league and an all-female league — but girls that are skilled enough to play in the mixed league are also allowed to play in the girls’ league.

Watkins said that extra ice time is giving some girls an unfair advantage when competing for spots in the mixed league.

"A team is picked based on your skill level. [It] doesn't matter if you're a female or a male," he said.

"But if we allow more ice time for a female player then they have more advantages than a male player with skill development."

Watkins couldn't resolve the issue with the local hockey association so he took his complaint to the human rights commission.

"The Stephenville Minor Hockey Association provides more skill development opportunities based upon gender," he said.

Watkins coaches a Bantam A hockey team, which includes two female players.

"Sometimes people say we don't want them there. I picked those players. I want the most skilled players on my team," he said.

"That's not the dispute, the fact that they're female. What is in dispute is how people get their skills."

Watkins said the issue could be resolved by creating different divisions.

"We could have a male and a female division," he said. "Females could play in the female division, males could play in the male division.

"There would be opportunities for females that were highly skilled to play in the male division if they would like. But we can't have a situation whereby we have more ice time and skill development opportunities given to one gender."

Ultimately, Watkins said he hopes the commission doesn't have to make a ruling on his complaint, and that he and the hockey association can come up with a solution on their own.

The Stephenville Minor Hockey Association did not return calls from CBC News.