A teenage hockey player from Paradise says she isn't getting fair consideration for Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador's high-performance provincial team for girls under 16.
Last season, Ella Meade, 13, played for the Wolverines in the U13 AA Don Johnson Hockey League, a competitive boys' league in the St. John's area.
"I like the intensity of the boys, I like the fastness of it and I'd just rather play with the boys," Meade told CBC News on Wednesday.
Since the end of this past season, Meade's focus switched to the provincial level for the spring, with her sights set on the HNL program.
The high performance program starts with a camp in the spring and narrows down the age groups to about 44 players each who move on to a provincial summer camp that runs in August. From there the groups are winnowed again, to 20 players for each age group's team. Those teams then compete in the Atlantic Challenge Cup, an Atlantic tournament held Thanksgiving weekend with teams from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
But Meade said she was denied the opportunity to try out for the U16 girls' team because she wasn't previously registered for girls' hockey.
"It doesn't make sense," she said. "I think it's a kind of useless rule."
Wendy Meade, Ella's mother, said girls who don't play a full season in registered girls' hockey can apply for an exemption but her daughter's exemption was denied.
"It's a rule that Hockey N.L. enforces, and I guess they're not changing their rule," she said. "It's kind of disappointing because you have some female players that 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 the years since because it's what her daughter wants to do.
If Ella played on both boys' and girls' teams, she would be eligible for the HNL camp, Wendy Meade said, but playing on two teams at the same time requires a lot of commitment — and while she encourages her kids to fully commit to whatever teams they make, two teams, with two schedules, is a difficult task.
"It's just hard on parents to be registered on two hockey teams, practices — it's just a lot," she said.
She said she just wants her daughter to have a fair chance at trying out for the provincial team.
"I think this rule needs to change. Ella's not the only girl that's affected by this," she said. "I'm sure there's other girls out there, and you're trying to promote female hockey, and at the same time females have to go through all these hoops, exemptions, just to try out for a team."
Hockey N.L. wouldn't do an interview with CBC News but sent a statement that said it's "committed to an inclusive and equitable programming within the organization."
In 2021 the organization created a policy that requires athletes attending provincial team programs to be registered during the previous season on a club team in their respective division. HNL said the policy is meant to increase the number of female players playing on female club teams in the province.
The organization also said it reviews all policies annually to make sure they align with the organization's goal of fostering "a safe, fun, and inclusive hockey experience."