Neepawa hockey team disciplined for hazing
The head of a Manitoba junior hockey team that has been punished for hazing five of its players admits that its members broke team guidelines for proper behaviour.
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League announced Tuesday that the coaches and 16 players with the Neepawa Natives have been suspended for hazing incidents involving five team members.
Natives head coach Bryant Perrier has been suspended for two games, while assistant coach Brad Biggers has been suspended for five games. The team has also been slapped with a $5,000 fine, according to the league.
"It's the largest fine that we ever issued," MJHL commissioner Kim Davis told CBC News.
The 16 players — including the team captain and three assistant captains — have been suspended for between one and five games for the hazing, which Davis described as "unacceptable" and resulted in five players being victimized.
Natives president Dave McIntosh told CBC News that his club has zero tolerance for hazing, but said its players have broken team guidelines in this case.
"There's many team rules … there's billet rules, there's [a] code of conduct that the players all have in their possession," McIntosh said after the sanctions were announced.
"We're a structured organization with a professional coach," he added.
McIntosh said he does not know the specifics of the hazing incident, but a coach did inform him that something had happened.
No details given
The league did not detail what occurred in the hazing but said the incidents occurred during the week of Sept. 26.
"I'm not going to get into the specifics," Davis told CBC News. "I don't think it's necessary that the public at large know all the gritty details."
In a release, Davis said the Natives' head coach "had no knowledge of the hazing incidents but is responsible because of his position as head of the hockey club.
"There is no excuse for this kind of inappropriate behavior. Ultimately the hockey club is responsible for the conduct of its staff and players," Davis stated in the release.
"As a result, a significant sanction has been imposed to reflect the importance of the team's responsibility in this matter."
Allegations came to the attention of the MJHL after a player filed a complaint earlier this month.
An RCMP spokesperson said officers from the Neepawa detachment have been looking into the incident.
Neepawa, a town of about 3,300, is one of the smallest communities in the country to have its own junior hockey team.
Residents who spoke to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon said it has been difficult for them to react to the incident since no one would divulge details of what happened.
Some said they feel the punishment was not enough, while others said the players involved are "just kids" so they should not be condemned so harshly.
The Natives is a community-owned team, financially supported by many local businesses and the Town of Neepawa.
Sponsors who spoke to CBC News said they would not pull their funding as a result of the incident, but many said they are extremely disappointed.
Davis said he's not sure if hazing is an issue among the other 10 teams in the league.
"I don't know if it is [a problem], but I'm concerned," he said. "Certainly we'll be following up in the next short little while."
With files from the CBC's Marisa Dragani