Police in southern Ontario have launched an investigation after about 60 young hockey players said they paid thousands to attend a European tournament that never took place.
The players, who are mostly from southern Ontario and in their late teens, paid roughly $3,000 each to travel to France to participate in the tournament.
Event organizer Ontario Central Scouting (OCS) promised dozens of professional hockey scouts would be present, said the players.
Instead, when they returned to Toronto on Tuesday, the dejected group said there was no tournament and they ended up playing a few games against each other.
"I spent $3,000 on shinny hockey, " said player Jordan Lass. "I had fun, but we got screwed — hard. I was excited because this has always been my dream to play professional hockey."
"Once we got there and found out that we wouldn’t be playing … I can't even explain how disappointed I was, let alone the rest of the guys, too."
OCS blamed the International Ice Hockey Federation — the organization that governs hockey around the world — saying it warned European scouts to stay away from the Canadian players because the OCS was not sanctioned by Hockey Canada.
Got what was promised: OCS
Victor Criscuolo, OCS's head coach and director of hockey operations, told the Toronto Star it was too expensive to have Hockey Canada sanction his organization.
In more comments to the Globe and Mail, Criscuolo said the players received what they were promised in their signed contracts: airfare, accommodation, breakfast and four games.
"It doesn’t say anything about international teams, doesn’t say anything about tournaments. So, the parents signed it and the players signed it," he told the newspaper.
According to a screen capture of the OCS website, sent to CBC News by a parent of one of the players, the organization charged $1,999 US per person to take part in the "International Cup" in Colmar, France, from Aug. 6-9. The OCS website went offline on Tuesday.
"Teams are headed overseas to play against European teams on their home ice," the website said. Interested players are given the contact name Francis, and are given an email address and phone number.
The final contract sent to parents does not specify games will be played against European teams, but refers to a "European tour" and guarantees a "minimum of four hockey games."
The itinerary sent to parents does not include specific European locations or the names of any hotels, instead citing "host city" or "host city hotel."
Police interviewing players
Fraud investigators with Peel Regional Police are trying to determine whether it's a fraud or civil dispute, and are interviewing players and others involved.
Three years ago, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association issued a warning about emails from the OCS.
"The email is said to be from Ontario Central Scouting and is regarding an upcoming Hockey Combine," the November 2006 warning said.
"The Ontario Hockey League has no affiliation whatsoever with Ontario Central Scouting and does not recognize the originator of this email or the details included in the email. Please disregard and delete this email if you should receive it."