Stalled contract negotiations between teachers and the Keewatin-Patricia public school board may cancel all NorWOSSA sports for the upcoming year, league president Diane Chappell warned this week.
The football season is the first casualty, and there’s a very distinct possibility that the court sports and hockey will be next.
“It doesn’t look good because the K-P board hasn’t made any progress,” she said from her Dryden home Monday afternoon.
“The way it looks now, I don’t think they will be able to get any volunteers because the teachers simply don’t have the time with the added class and paperwork,” she noted.
The school board there is asking its high school teachers to teach seven out of eight classes, which eliminates one prep period during the course of the year.
A tentative deal reached earlier this week between the Rainy River District School Board and its teachers will allow the high school sports program to continue here.
But just who the Muskies will play remains up in the air.
Muskie head coach Bob Swing confirmed yesterday the NorWOSSA football season has been cancelled for this year. The black-and-gold are now looking at playing an exhibition schedule against teams from Winnipeg and the U.S. (see related story on this page).
Swing said there’s obvious disappointment NorWOSSA had to be cancelled, and expressed his remorse that the kids from Dryden and Kenora won’t be able to play football this season.
“I feel sorry for the kids up there,” he noted. “But for us, you have to look at this in a positive way in that our guys get a chance to play different teams that will give us different looks.”
“This is going to be very traumatic for the kids, especially those who look forward to being a part of school teams,” agreed Chappell.
“Coaches are a very dedicated group who enjoy giving up their time,” she added. “Coaches don’t want to say no, in fact, they are upset about it. They’re being forced into [the decision].”
Chappell, who said she has never experienced anything of this magnitude affecting high school sports in her 22 years of teaching, admitted it would have been difficult to start the football season later than normal because of the practice time needed to get the teams ready.
She also said any delay increased the likelihood of running inclement weather.
Meanwhile, NorWOSSA hockey also is in serious jeopardy this season since the other four teams in the league—Sioux Lookout, Red Lake, Kenora, and Dryden—fall under the jurisdiction of the Keewatin-Patricia school board.
Fort High athletic director Ian Simpson said the Muskies, which began their training camp Monday, probably would play an exhibition schedule much like that of the football team (which would have to be approved by OFSAA).
But he also said the black-and-gold may be able to get an exemption from OFSAA that would allow them an automatic berth into the all-Ontarios slated next March in Dryden.
As for the court sports, Chappell said they would look at Fort Frances, considered a ‘AA’ program, joining a league with ‘A’ schools from Rainy River, Pelican Falls, Whitefish Bay, and Thomas Aquinas (a Catholic school in Kenora).
The winner here then would play the winner from Thunder Bay for the NWOSSAA title, with that winner moving on to the all-Ontarios.
Simpson said the decision must be made on a “day-by-day and week-by-week” basis, saying he would have to wait until he has contacted both the Dryden and Kenora high school principals before making an announcement regarding the court sports.
In related news, all OFSAA championships are on shaky ground since some high school leagues in Ontario already have voted themselves out of league championships, said Chappell.
OFSAA has a mandate that says a provincial championship will only be played if and when 50 percent of the associations send a rep.
With 22 different ones scattered across the province, Chappell said at least 11 teams would have to participate in each sport for the all-Ontario showdown to go ahead.