Hockey group defends fines for team skipping ceremony

Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador is defending a decision to expel a coach and fine a junior team that put studying before ceremony.
Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador has banned Mount Pearl coach Brian Cranford for one year. (CBC)

Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador is defending a decision to expel a coach and fine a junior team that put studying before ceremony, saying at least one representative could have shown up for two official functions.

The Mount Pearl Junior Blades has been ordered to pay a $2,000 fine after missing the opening ceremony and closing banquet at an Atlantic Canadian regional tournament in April. Coach Brian Cranford has been banned from the organization for a year.

Cranford told CBC News that the team had trouble getting enough players to compete in games because of university exams and work schedules, and that he told the organizing committee the team could not attend either the opening ceremony or the banquet.

But Murray Roberts, vice-president of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL), said the Blades were told in writing on April 3 that their presence was mandatory, and that no objections were voiced at a pre-tournament meeting of managers and coaches.

Speaking to CBC News Monday, Roberts said someone from the Blades could have made an effort to attend the official functions.

"It doesn't say that the whole team has to be there," Roberts said in an interview.

"The roster indicates there were 23 players, seven executive members [and] four coaching staff. They all weren't writing exams, they all weren't working, and they were representing our branch at this event," he said.

Cranford, a retired police officer with more than 20 years of experience as a hockey coach, said he has been unable to find written proof of regulations that make attendance at official functions mandatory.

There's such a thing due process. In this country, you have the right to face your accusers.

Cranford has hired Bob Simmonds, a high-profile St. John's defence lawyer, to represent him in the matter. Part of his complaint is focused on what he calls an inadequate appeal process.

"One of the things I learned very quickly the first couple of days as a police officer is that there's such a thing due process," said Cranford, who remains upset that he was not able to argue his points in person to the appeal panel.

"In this country, you have the right to face your accusers ... Where is the accountability? They're not accountable to anybody."

Roberts said Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador uses independent persons to appeal internal decisions.

This is not the only dispute that has embroiled Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador. In May, four coaches with a Conception Bay girls' team were suspended for one year each for what the organization called "a severe travesty."

The team brought five female players who had not been enrolled in a house league to a tournament, in a breach of HNL policy.

Roberts defended how HNL has handled internal infractions.

"We have to have in place, to the best of our ability, protocols and guidelines [but] tough decisions have to be made," he said.