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By Jordan Hay

This year marks the return of a women’s hockey program to Ryerson after a 59-year hiatus. But don’t call them the Rams — at least not yet.

Before being welcomed into the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) league, the team must compete under probationary status in a different league for a minimum of two years.

In addition, players cannot compete under the name Ryerson or Rams at the risk of losing eligibility once the probation period has ended.

“We don’t want to lose a lot of our players so we’ve entered them as the Stingers,” said acting athletic director Jean Kennedy, a former University of Toronto hockey player.

Once assembled, the Stingers, who will play at York University, will be competing in the Tier 4 division of the Golden Blades Women’s Hockey League. The veteran organization consists of four tiers, Tier 1 being the most advanced.

“We decided that we should enter low and look good rather than enter high,” Kennedy said.

The decision to establish a women’s hockey program was initiated by fourth-year fashion communications student Stephanie Poulin and furthered by a recent CIS announcement calling for participating universities to have equal men’s and women’s teams by 2010.

“It’s something that needs to happen here. York has a women’s team and U of T has a women’s team. I think it’s time we step up our game if we want to have a competitive athletics department and this is a step in the right direction,” Poulin said.

After campaigning for two years and seeing no prospect of a program, Poulin organized an unofficial team that practiced weekly and secured a tournament win last year. “After that tournament I couldn’t keep shut,” said Poulin.

She personally called President Sheldon Levy to inform him of the rebel squad’s victory. Levy saw it as a good sign and rewarded Poulin’s initiative by giving her the green light to form her team.

This year the team will receive $16,500 in financial assistance from the university to cover basic needs.

“It’s certainly not enough,” said Kennedy, who is well aware they will need to drum up significant support through sponsorship, Ryerson’s adopt an athlete program and fundraising.

To further cut costs, Poulin and her father, temporary head coach Harvey Poulin, have volunteered without pay. It may seem like a long road for the eventual Rams, but the team knows how the game is played.

“There’s a very specific structure and a very specific process they have to go through to see if there’s even sufficient interest to pursue the development of a varsity team,” said the team’s administrator Liz Devine, a hockey player herself.

Regardless of the strict regulations, the Stinger’s bottom line is having fun.

“There’s no point in playing sports if you don’t have fun,” Poulin said. “I want the girls to enjoy having fun and getting to be part of this movement at Ryerson.”

For those interested in trying out for the team, a meeting will be held Sept. 13 and Stinger tryouts begin Sept. 18 at Moss Park Arena.

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