Popular Calgary hockey tournament suspends female competition

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WATCH: One of the largest hockey tournaments in Calgary won't be including girls. The Mac's Triple A Midget Hockey Tournament says it made the decision because of low registration numbers, but as Michael King reports, members of Calgary's hockey community feel it was more about timing than a lack of interest – Sep 14, 2018

The Mac’s AAA Midget Hockey Tournament has suspended its female portion of competition.

Organizers said Friday the decision was made due to the declining number of teams registering for the tournament.

In a statement, the organization said it has not been able to fill the women’s bracket in recent years, dropping from 15 teams in the early 2000’s to just eight teams last season.

In comparison, 25 teams took part in the men’s portion of the tournament.

READ MORE: Women’s Olympic hockey stars inspiring more girls to play the game

Despite the low numbers, Jamie Martin, vice-president of Girls Hockey Calgary, said the timing of the annual boxing week tournament may be the main reason numbers are down.

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“Unfortunately, kids want to get home for Christmas,” said Martin. “The Mac’s [tournament] is over the Christmas holidays and it’s a timing thing. It’s tough to field the women’s side and to have the girls come out at Christmas.”

Tournament officials say they’ll be working closely with women’s hockey organizations to find a way to get the female portion of the tournament reinstated for next year’s event.

“We are hopeful that this is a one-year leave of absence, and that we will be able to reinvigorate the interest for this event and operate again in the 2019/20 season and beyond,” the tournament said in a statement.

Despite the lower number of teams, Martin said the tournament’s suspension doesn’t reflect the growth of women’s hockey in the city.

“Our community has been growing by 50 to 100 members a year for the last three years,” said Martin. “Three years ago we are at 500 members and now we’re over 800 now within girls hockey. The growth of the game is solid.”

READ MORE: Athletes in Calgary support Big Brothers Big Sisters ‘All-Stars for Kids’ event

Coaches and players say tournaments like Mac’s Midget and the Firestarter tournament play a key role in making sure women can continue to play hockey at a high-level.

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Over the next two weeks, the Firestarter tournament will feature 30 AA and AAA woman’s team. More than 20 post-secondary schools are scouting the tournament to find the next generation of female talent.

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