As part of the centennial celebrations being held this year, Laurier will be hosting the 2010-2011 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championships for women’s hockey.

Peter Baxter, Director of Athletics & Recreation at the Waterloo campus, spoke of Laurier’s decision to host the championships as a step in the direction of the next century, by honouring women’s sports.

“We were looking at the centennial celebrations of Wilfrid Laurier, and of course in the last decade we’ve been very successful in our women’s programs,” Baxter said, noting that many of the 26 OUA championships to come to Laurier in the past 10 years have been for women’s sports.

“We’re always known as a football school and have seen great success, but as an athletic department and as a university we wanted to make a statement to profile women’s sport for the next century here at Laurier,” he concluded.

With this inspiration in mind, hosting the championship for women’s hockey seems to be a no-brainer, with the Golden Hawks team capturing the past seven OUA championships – well on their way to capturing an eighth this season.

However, as Baxter notes, hosting the tournament is more than just about celebrating championships, it is about celebrating women’s sports programs as a whole.

“It’s always been a struggle to get focus, media attention and public awareness to women’s sport. The development of women’s sports is still in its early history,” Baxter says, noting that when he started his job 12 years ago the women’s hockey budget was barely enough to secure ice time.

“We’ve made a lot better strides in terms of gender equity, in terms of funding women’s sport, and we run our women’s hockey team at a national level,” Baxter said. “The opportunity to host and to profile it in our centennial year speaks to the strength of our program and we want to move it forward.”

Another factor that Baxter says is important in hosting the tournament is to bring in corporate support for the women’s programs at the school, and to engage all of the local girls’ minor hockey associations in the area, by bringing some of the best women’s hockey players from across the country to Waterloo.

“It offers the opportunity for the student body, faculty, staff and alumni to be part of an event [featuring] national caliber and to put Laurier on the national stage,” Baxter said.

High-caliber players are one thing that the tournament promises to provide. Unlike men’s hockey where CIS has to compete with the Canadian junior leagues, CIS features the best of women’s hockey.

As an example of this, Baxter makes note of Hayley Wickenheiser, one of Canada’s most celebrated female athletes ever. Wickenheiser is currently playing with the University of Calgary and has them in first place in the Canada West Conference. It is likely that she and her Dinos squad will be traveling to Waterloo for the championships.

“Ultimately, I know what Coach Osborne wants, and he wants a national championship on home ice for the Golden Hawks,” Baxter concludes. “Right now they’re working hard to complete that goal.”

The tournament will be held from March 10-13, with the games being played at the Waterloo Recreation Complex.