Rules are rules and they are meant to be followed.
Unfortunately for one sixteen-year-old exchange student from Japan a long withstanding Hockey Canada rule has prevented him from playing the game he loves at the level he wants on Canadian soil.
Hineta Ueda was poised to play for the Voyageurs HC this season until a rule derailed his dream. The highly skilled speedy forward found out the disappointing news earlier this week that he wouldn’t be allowed to play in the Nova Scotia U-16 AAA Hockey League.
Ueda was formally signed by the team when his name along with other rostered players was submitted to Hockey Nova Scotia and subsequently Hockey Canada. The long withstanding Hockey Canada rule which is restricting his participation is set in place to prevent anyone outside of the country to send their children over here to play.
The rule is also in place to prevent organizations, provinces, and teams under Hockey Canada umbrella from potentially targeting or recruiting elite level players from another country. It’s evident that Hockey Canada’s rule protects the integrity of the game and maintains potential roster positions and opportunities for Canadian born players, but one would think exceptions to the rule would apply in certain circumstances or on a case-by-case basis. That’s certainly not the case.
Before people jump to conclusions the rule isn’t discriminatory, it’s more likely set in place to ensure recruiting never happens. It’s really unfortunate that Ueda won’t be able to play at the U-16 AAA level, but he will be allowed to play for his high school.
So, if rules are rules and rules are meant to be followed how can exchange students play high school sports?
In some provinces high school hockey is considered an “outlaw league” and doesn’t fully fall under all the jurisdiction or rules sanctioned by Hockey Canada. High School hockey is usually governed by the those that oversee all high school sports on a province level. Those governing bodies also have strict rules, guidelines and policies in place.
Countless exchange students participate in high school sports every year while they experience life in the Maritimes or other parts of Canada. These students and their families pay surprisingly large sums of money to travel and experience life here in North America. Exchange programs are truly amazing and potentially a life altering experience for all those involved. In many cases exchange some students hope to remain in the country to further their education in post-secondary institutions in Canada.
If rules are rules and they are meant to be followed, how can prep schools or private schools around the Maritimes have exchange students from different countries attend their programming? When international students seek out prep schools the institution obviously takes over guardianship of the student athlete and seemingly hundreds of hours of forms and paperwork has to be filled out and documented by the school and coaches. Let’s just say all the i’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed and rightfully so. Of course, Ueda’s parents and family aren’t part of the exchange, so he has no “formal” guardianship in Nova Scotia other than his host family.
For argument sake, if Ueda had relatives living in Nova Scotia and moved here on a permeant basis he could no doubt play at any level.
One could only imagine what some people or organizations would do if the rule didn’t exist. There’s no doubt some teams and organizations would exploit any loophole in the rules to attract players to their program. The CHL has strict rules and guidelines in place to prevent possible exploitation of import rules and regulations which ensures a level playing field for every organization.
Sadly, Hineta Ueda got caught up in a rule that protects the integrity of the game from those that would prey or wish to exploit it. Ueda is fortunate that he still gets to play the game he loves, but in a different environment and level. The Voyageurs still want to “AP’ Ueda and look to appeal the matter with Hockey Nova Scotia and Hockey Canada.
Finding rules and policies under the Hockey Canada umbrella can be extremely challenging but the rule that could be used in Ueda’s situation might be this one.
REGISTERED PARTICIPANTS 14.1 Any person, Club, team, Association, league, Hockey Canada School With Residence, Hockey Canada Accredited School, or similar entity registered with Hockey Canada or any of its Members, or any person, affiliated with or associated with, in any capacity whatsoever, any Club, team, league, Hockey Canada School With Residence, Hockey Canada Accredited School or similar entity participating in games or activities of any kind sponsored or organized by Hockey Canada or any of its Members, including but not limited to the parents or legal guardians of any minor aged participant registered in Hockey Canada programming, shall not have membership status within Hockey Canada but, rather, shall be referred to throughout these By-Laws as a “Registered Participant”.
Here’s hoping Hineta Ueda’s experience in Nova Scotia is everything he hoped it would be and more even if he can’t play with the Vees. Let’s hope he can at least AP with them and you never know, where he might end up playing in the future!