By Mark Newman
Metroland West Media Group
When the principals at Hamilton’s public high schools asked their teachers if they were interested in resuming varsity coaching, the response was less than enthusiastic.
“Generally there wasn’t a lot of response,” said Jeff Wright, assistant athletics convenor at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, who noted the principals made the inquiry nearly three weeks ago at the request of their area superintendents.
Hamilton’s public high school teachers stopped coaching school teams in early December to protest the province’s Bill 115.
The legislation that imposed contracts and limited the teachers’ collective bargaining rights was repealed last month and there was hope the winter sports season could be salvaged.
That hope quickly disappeared for many young athletes as none of the public high school boys’ hockey teams are slated to return and only Sherwood, Westmount, Orchard Park, Highland and Sir Winston Churchill will ice girls’ hockey squads, all in the same division.
“We’re going to play an eight-game schedule,” said Wright.
Playoffs, featuring the top four teams, begin on March 27 and the final is slated for April 3.
Sherwood and Westmount had been playing in Division 1, while the other schools had Division 2 teams.
“At this point we’re just looking at providing the opportunity to play,” said Wright. “With the lack of teams, there’s no other way to do it at this point.”
Wright said only top division Sherwood and Westmount are eligible to qualify for SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association).
Those two clubs will meet twice during the eight-game schedule and the winner of the season series will advance to the southern Ontario tournament in St. Catharines on Feb. 27.
Orchard Park will also continue with junior and senior boys’ basketball and junior and senior girls’ volleyball. Waterdown will continue with senior girls’ volleyball.
Being the only Hamilton high school that has returned with a senior and junior boys’ basketball team, both Orchard Park squads are slated to represent the Hamilton district at SOSSA, said Wright.
The junior team will play some exhibition games against independent high schools, George P. Vanier and Hamilton District Christian High School.
Wright said they have not been able to line up any exhibition games for the senior team.
In junior girls’ volleyball, Orchard Park was slated to play exhibition games this week and next week against Guido de Bres and Hamilton District Christian High School.
Orchard Park battled Waterdown in a senior girls’ volleyball SOSSA qualifier on Tuesday; the result was not available at press time.
Last week, Waterdown beat OP three sets to none in the final of a three-team exhibition tournament that also included Vanier.
Wright said high schools with sports academies such as Sherwood for hockey and Sir Allan MacNab for basketball will continue their curriculum during school hours.
He said no decision has been made yet on whether spring season sports will be played. The spring season includes soccer, badminton, track and field, girls’ slo-pitch and junior boys’ football.