Lake Manitoba hockey players speak out about weekend brawl
Eagles team members say ref was being unfair before fight broke out on ice
Some of the young Lake Manitoba hockey players caught up in a brawl on the ice during a game last weekend said they were being treated unfairly.
Colby Choken, one of the Eagles players from Lake Manitoba that faced off at a championship game against the Stonewall Blues on Sunday, blamed the referee.
"I don't know how to put this," he said. "The ref was being one-sided in the game. There was two teams, and the ref was acting as if there was one."
Darrel Swan, coach of the Lake Manitoba team, also said his players were being treated differently.
"Lets bring up NHL hockey," he said. "There is poor calls on it on one side. But, this game in Stonewall, it was one-sided call. From the start of the game when the puck was dropped."
There are allegations one of the players shot a puck at the ref. But Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief Barry Swan told CBC News after the game that didn't happen.
Swan said officials lost control of the match and were calling too many penalties against the Eagles for most of the game.
Winnipeg author Don Marks said it's entirely possible one team was being treated differently.
Marks' book, They call Me Chief: Warriors on the Ice, looks at the experiences of First Nations athletes who have overcome obstacles to play in the NHL.
"I've found, in my experience, playing on an all-native team, where the referee may have [the] attitude, 'I have to watch these players a little extra careful,' because we have black uniforms, long hair, maybe a few missing teeth, from pucks not punches, and then the other players look at our team and they go, 'Oh, I better carry my stick a little high.'"
Marks said there's no excuse for violence against a referee, but hockey does need to overcome the stereotypes and culture clashes that can lead to problems.
"There's a culture clash that goes on here," he said. "It's based on stereotypes. We don't know each other well enough."
Marks said First Nations people have a role to play in changing those stereotypes.
"You've got to make remedies like aboriginal representation on a board of Hockey Manitoba," he said.
"You have to have league meetings, parents meetings, workshops, where native parents and white parents come out and get to know each other."
RCMP and Hockey Manitoba are still investigating the fight.