Efforts to bring women's hockey back to the University of North Dakota took a major hit on this week with a judge throwing out a discrimination lawsuit seeking to reinstate the program. The suit was filed by 11 former UND women's hockey players, including Olympic gold-medalists Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux.

The school dropped the women's hockey program — as well as men's and women's swimming and diving— in the spring of 2017, citing budgetary issues. Those who filed the complaint last summer argued that by doing this UND violated Title IX laws which seek to protect students in federal and state-funded schools from discrimination based on their sex.

Title IX laws have been oft-debated since taking effect in 1972. Title IX requires schools provide equal opportunity to both sexes. But where it gets tricky, especially in athletics, is that doesn't necessarily mean that the same sport has to be offered to both sexes. As long as equal athletic opportunities are provided throughout the department, a school can make changes in what it offers without violating Title IX. However, "equal opportunity" is something that can easily be interpreted differently by different people.

In his order dismissing the suit, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said he didn't see "substantial disproportionality" in men's and women's athletic opportunities, based on enrollment at UND.

However, those seeking to reinstate the program believe context should be included in the discussion. Daniel Siegel, the attorney representing the players, expressed his frustration that the popularity of the sport was not considered relevant by the judge.

"We're not talking about the University of Miami, we're talking about the University of North Dakota in a state and in a region where ice hockey is the most popular sport," Siegel told the Bismarck Tribune. "Girls and women are increasingly playing ice hockey, whether it's at the high school, club or college level. Under these circumstances, we think that it's apparent that the University of North Dakota is not treating female athletes as well as male athletes and we should be allowed to prove that."

Siegel said he and the players are still deciding if they will appeal the decision.

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