Work-to-rule

Amidst NSTU work-to-rule, new options for high school athletes

Mixed feelings over the replacement leagues started by regional sports organizations

For some students, sports equipment like this will be languishing in basements until work-to-rule is over. (Photo is of the author’s sporting equipment.)   Mark Moffat

Nova Scotia teachers are entering their sixth week of work-to-rule, as they continue a protracted contract battle with the provincial government. For some student-athletes in Halifax, this means they haven’t been able to play sports.

However, two provincial sporting organizations are trying to change that. Hockey Nova Scotia has organized a new league, with play expected to begin later this month and Basketball Nova Scotia plans to allow high school players to join its existing youth teams in February.

The opportunity to play again has left one parent cautiously supportive of the idea.

Michelle Malette of Halifax has a son who plays goal for the Prince Andrew Panthers hockey team. She said there is something special about being able to play with one’s classmates.

“There is a different level of morale when playing for your high school,” said Malette.

One provision for both the hockey league and the basketball program is that the teams must not be affiliated with a high school team in any way. But, Malette said, her son will be in the league.

“It’s important,” she said. “If he wants to play, he’s going to play.”

News of the replacement league was intriguing to one parent, but the work-to-rule still creates anxiety.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Geoff Boyce, in a Facebook comment to The Signal.

Geoff Boyce is the father of Tyler Boyce, a high school player for the Richmond Academy Hurricanes in Louisdale, Cape Breton. Tyler Boyce is in grade 12 and plays left wing — but his pursuit was temporarily ground to a halt because of the work-to-rule.

“It’s our senior year that everybody said is the best, but in my opinion, it’s been the worst,” said Tyler Boyce, over Facebook Messenger.

After being off the ice for almost two months, Tyler Boyce thinks the replacement league is a good idea, but it would never substitute school play. Players wouldn’t have the same practice routine or coaching staff, for example.

“I’m just not a fan of any of it at all,” he said. “I’m hoping that it ends really soon so we can actually get something out of our season.”

Basketball Nova Scotia executive director, David Wagg, said his goal is to “ensure as many kids as possible are able to find a place to play.” He added that they had no trouble setting up the program, as the NSSAF (Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation) made the decision in December to make it easier for youth teams to absorb displaced players.

He added that Basketball Nova Scotia is working with the Metro Basketball Association and teams from outside the HRM to establish tournaments.

The basketball program has 11 female and six male high school teams in the HRM alone. Wagg also said more than a dozen high school teams from outside HRM have joined as well.

Registration for both leagues is now closed.