BC Hockey stands by Vernon ruling

It's been more than a week since BC Hockey suspended the bantam tier-2 team from Vernon, B.C., and while the organization stands by its decision, the parents of team members still don't understand why their kids were punished.

But facts surrounding the investigation are still in dispute

The Vernon bantam tier-2 team has been suspended for the rest of the hockey season. ((Kevin Light/CBC Sports))

It's been more than a week since BC Hockey suspended the bantam tier-2 team from Vernon, B.C., and while the organization stands by its decision, the parent of a team member told Our Game they still don't understand why the players were punished.

"We have no idea what the team did that was so wrong to deserve this treatment," said the parent.

The suspension followed an incident that happened in October, when a player on the team made a formal complaint to the Greater Vernon Minor Hockey Association (GVMHA).

The boy's parents told the Vernon Morning Star newspaper that the complaint was filed because the coach of the team was verbally and emotionally abusive towards their son.

BC Hockey said the complaint was mishandled by the GVMHA, which is accused of asking the boy to stay away from the team until the matter was resolved. Eventually the issue was dealt with by BC Hockey and the GVMHA, and the coach was cleared of the allegations of inappropriate conduct.

But the matter didn't end there. The team entered a tournament in mid-January where the controversy was rekindled. There were a couple of other incidents that centred on the player who made the original complaint.

The end result is that after an investigation, BC Hockey suspended the team for the rest of the year, minus the player who made the original complaint. Two GVMHA executives and the tier-2 bantam coaching staff and managers have also resigned from the association.

The parent who spoke to Our Game said the players are being suspended for the actions of the adults involved.

"As a parent, I cannot even begin to explain to my 15-year-old son how he can be punished so severely for the mistakes made by adults," the parent said. "I cannot make any sense of it myself."

But when Our Game contacted BC Hockey, a spokesman said that wasn't the case at all.

'Actions warranted suspension,' BC Hockey spokesman

"I'm surprised somewhat by [the question]," said Barry Petrachenko, executive director of BC Hockey.

"This is clearly not a situation where the players are being punished for the parents and association's actions. Our investigation found that the players had done things that warranted a suspension," he said.

Petrachenko said that the child who made the complaint was alienated from the team after it was filed.

He said the boy had his equipment bag thrown out of the dressing room into the hall and on another occasion he was left alone on the ice, along with a series of other incidents. But the biggest problem happened at the tournament.

"He wasn't 'invited' to the tournament. He was 'brought' to the tournament with the team. And that created the problem," Petrachenko said.

But the parent said that wasn't the reason BC Hockey gave them for their kids losing part of a season.

"BC Hockey indicated to us that the letters and phone calls that they received from the parents resulted in a risk management issue and [that was] the reason for the suspension. There was no indication from BC Hockey that our kids had done anything towards the child in question," the parent said.

'All hell broke loose'

"These boys were faced with making difficult decisions that they should not have had to make," the parent said. "However, they decided as a group to play with the boy on the team and deal with the situation as best as they could.  

"The parent group also agreed that it would be best to accept the reintegration of the player back onto the team and make the best of it," the parent said. "Then all hell broke loose.

"We were just trying to do the right thing. The team has been suspended ever since and here we are."

The parent also said the examples BC Hockey cited as reasons for the team's suspension were not true.

"I do not know where BCAHA got the information that he was left on the ice by himself, as there were many people there that could attest to the fact that he wasn't," the parent said.

The parent said the reason the child's bag was left outside the dressing room was that there was simply no room for it.

"After it was learned that the boy would not be suiting up for the game [he was one of three goalies], the trainer was asked if the bag could be moved out of the way, so the players could get to their bags," the parent said. "The bag was neatly placed against the wall right by the door to the dressing room."

Hockey Canada stands by decision

But BC Hockey's decision stands. Hockey Canada also stood by its provincial branch's ruling.

"BC Hockey has all the information they need to make decisions with respect to those kids on that team," said Glen McCurdie, senior director of membership services for Hockey Canada.

The Vernon parent told Our Game that the team has launched an appeal, but Petrachenko said it's not like a court procedure — the appeal process is only there to determine if any mistakes were made in the investigation, not to re-examine the incident. But he said it's time to move on regardless.

"I think it's time for everybody to learn from it, to make sure it never happens again, and move forward from it," he said.

But the Vernon parent maintains that the bantam tier-2 kids were not treated fairly.

"I just hope that none of them will have a black mark next to their names for the rest of their minor hockey careers. I do not hold out much hope in the process at this point, however," the parent said.

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