In an historic moment for Trinity Western University, the Spartans men’s and women’s hockey teams were officially voted in to join the Canada West conference, elevating TWU’s hockey teams to Canada’s top tier of university sports (U SPORTS), beginning in 2020-21.
The Spartans are one of three schools who are bringing both their men’s and women’s programs to the CW level beginning with the 2020-21 season, with MacEwan University’s hockey teams and the University of the Fraser Valley’s volleyball teams also joining the conference.
Spartan Athletics, which has been part of Canada West since 1999, will see its men’s and women’s hockey teams join TWU’s men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, soccer, track and field and volleyball teams as members of the upper echelon of university sports in the country.
The Spartans application was approved Thursday after receiving a three-quarter vote from the existing members in each sport, during the final day of the Canada West AGM in Whistler, B.C.
The Spartans hockey teams, along with MacEwan, will join the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, University Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Manitoba, Mount Royal University, the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan in the Canada West conference.
“Today is an historic day that represents the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new era in Spartan Athletics for TWU,” said Director of Athletics Jeff Gamache. “Hockey is obviously the sport that brings out the most passion and excitement for Canadians and to now have the opportunity to participate in women’s and men’s hockey at the Canada West and U SPORTS level is incredibly exciting. The support we have received from the university has been unparalleled. Few schools are adding sports these days and even fewer are adding a sport like hockey that requires a significant financial contribution. “I am also so thankful for our Spartan hockey alumni and the current players who have laid the foundation for this new era. Nothing historic is built without the many who have gone before, all of whom have helped make this day possible.”
“I could not be happier for (TWU men’s hockey head coach) Barret Kropf, as without his dedication to hockey in general at TWU and his leadership and ability to build a team of people around both our men’s and women’s programs, this day would not be possible. We can now say with great certainty that TWU will be home to the leading Christian hockey program in the world. I have no doubt we will have players from literally all over the globe who want to join Spartan hockey because it will provide elite hockey players a place to explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a godly Christian leader. We understand how unique this opportunity is and we are excited to see many more young women and men use their God-given hockey talent on a team that loves each other and competes shoulder to shoulder in such a unique way within the hockey world.”
TWU’s men’s hockey team currently competes in the BCIHL (British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League) and is coming off back-to-back championship-winning seasons. The 2019-20 season will mark the Spartans final season in the BCIHL before moving to Canada West. Under Kropf, who took over as head coach of the TWU men’s hockey program in 2013, the Spartans have played in the league final in four of the last five years.
The TWU women’s hockey team came under the Spartans umbrella in 2018 and currently competes in the South Coast Women’s Hockey League.
“We’re really excited for Spartan Hockey to see both men’s and women’s teams make the jump to the top level of university hockey in the country,” Kropf said. “It’s been a goal of ours for quite a while, so we’re really excited for the opportunity and very thankful that the other Canada West members felt there was a need for continued growth and opportunities for top junior players to pursue being student-athletes. We look forward to continuing to chase excellence in Canada West.
“As a program, we just want to keep striving to develop leaders on and off the ice. We want to be able to continue to facilitate an all-around development within our student-athletes over their five years at TWU. We obviously also want to see spiritual development as well. We do things differently and we do hockey differently and we do that by creating a culture of excellence and helping our student-athletes become leaders both at the rink and away from the rink.”
The Spartans move to Canada West has been a collaborative process with the Township of Langley, the Langley Events Centre and a variety of key constituents within the hockey community.
“I would like to thank the Township of Langley and the broader hockey world for their support of our pursuit,” Gamache said. “Without the partnerships we have within our great city and the hockey community we would not have seen this day come. We are very much looking forward to bring more hockey fans to the Langley Event Centre to watch a brand of hockey that is world class. Now the true fun begins as we begin to build our teams for the 2020-21 season.”
The addition of the Spartans and Griffins will mark the first conference expansion in hockey since the 2012-13 season, when the Mount Royal University Cougars played their first CW season.
“The addition of these new programs speaks directly to the quality of Canada West, and the value these institutions see in expanding their sport offerings,” said CW President Clint Hamilton. “We’d like to thank the applying members for bringing forward thorough applications, which clearly indicated their continued institutional commitment to Canada West.
“This is another sign that university sport across Western Canada is strong, and that providing additional academic, athletic, and leadership opportunities for student-athletes is important. I’d also like to thank our Membership Committee for all their hard work, and their dedication to ensuring the integrity of our process. Our existing members in each sport ultimately decided the outcome, affirming these members desire to expand their presence within Canada West.”
MacEwan will join CW hockey after competing previously at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) level, where they have claimed the last three conference banners in both men’s and women’s play. Both teams will compete at the ACAC level during the upcoming 2019-20 season. MacEwan first competed as a CW member in basketball, volleyball, and soccer in 2014-15.
In volleyball, UFV will join CW after competing in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST), where the Cascades have played continuously since 2004 (previously competed between 1983-85).
UFV is set to become the 13th CW men’s volleyball program, and the 14th women’s program, marking the first expansion of conference volleyball since MacEwan in 2014-15.
The Cascades initially joined CW in basketball and soccer during the 2006-07 season.