There’s a common feeling being passed between the players on the UNB women’s varsity hockey team.
“They fought hard and it’s really an honour to be able to play and make those people proud, make the city proud,” said forward Frederike Cyr.
This weekend, the team hit the ice during two games for the first time in a decade, after the team was downgraded to a sports club in 2008.
That prompted a former player to lodge a complaint on the basis of sex, which resulted in the province’s Labour and Employment Board ordering the school to reverse its decision after a lengthy court battle.
“It’s extra special that we get to bring it back under the circumstances,” said head coach Sarah Hilworth, who has spent the last year and a half recruiting and preparing infrastructure needed to make the team a success.
UNB had applied for a judicial review of the Labour and Employment Board ruling compelling the school to reinstate a women’s varsity hockey team, and had also struck a task force in June 2016 to review the matter.
The task force recommended the parties enter into a settlement conference. The agreements reached included the reinstatement of the team for this season, and that UNB withdraw its application for a judicial review.
“They know how lucky they are to being back this program and be the identity of UNB women’s hockey and leave a legacy that’s just positive for the next generation of Reds,” said Hilworth.
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But it’s these very women who are the first chapter in the club’s new history book.
“Being from Fredericton, it’s something special,” said forward Emma Dow. “I mean, to represent what the program was before to bring it back it’s definitely a great feeling.”
But there’s much more than hockey being celebrated by the team. It’s the ability to influence a younger generation to step up to the plate and work hard to accomplish dreams.
“Being able to look in the stands and seeing little girls cheering for us is definitely an amazing feeling,” said Jaclyn Purcell, a goalie on the team.
Meantime UNB has produced a new gender equity policy. Introduced in September of 2017, it’s a policy that has now been adopted by the university.