The Ontario Hockey League has fined the Windsor Spitfires nearly half a million dollars.
The league levied fines totalling $400,000 against the Spitfires and have taken away three first-round draft picks and two second round draft selections from the Spitfires. The fine is the biggest ever levied by the OHL.
In a media release, the league said it conducted two separate investigations led by its director of security and enforcement, who determined the Windsor Spitfires violated the league’s player benefit and recruitment rules and policies.
OHL Commissioner David Branch said the league’s board of governors enacted the player benefit and recruitment rules and policies in 2009. A complaint against the Spits was made in 2010 and an investigation started almost immediately.
"Any payments made to players must conform to rules and policies we have in place," Branch told CBC News. "There was a violation of our policies and procedures as to the benefits you can provide the players."
Branch would not say who launched the complaint. Rules state a team, player or anyone within the industry can launch a complaint, he said.
Spits deny violations
In a media release, the Spitfires said "there is no evidence to support this decision."
The Spits also claimed the league did not follow due process during its investigation. The club denied any wrongdoing.
"We will pursue all avenues of appeal regarding the decision," the media release said.
The Spitfires have no further comment until the appeal process is complete.
When asked if the club would pay prior to an appeal, Spits spokesperson David Ducharme refused to say.
Branch, however, said "clearly the Spitfires will conform" to the ruling. He expects them to pay the fine.
Branch said more than one investigation into rules violations were launched throughout the league. He would not say whether any were ongoing.
Memorial Cup bid not affected
The Spitfires have made it publicly known they want to host the 2014 Memorial Cup, the Canadian Hockey League's championship tournament.
Branch said the rulings will not hinder the Spitfires from bidding to host the tournament.
"I cannot see how it impacts that, quite frankly," Branch said. "There are various sanctions that can take place ... but one of them is not taking away the opportunity to host special events.
However, "one of the requisites" of being host is that the club is a championship contender.
That could be made more difficult without a first-round draft picks in 2013, 2014 and 2017.