2 Manitoba hockey players, 12, face assault charges

Two 12-year-old hockey players have been arrested in connection with a violent game in Winnipeg in February.

Arrests follow violent game last February in Winnipeg

Players, referees, and coaches get involved in a fight in February at a game involving teams from Sagkeeng First Nation and Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

Two 12-year-old hockey players have been arrested in connection with a violent game in Winnipeg in February.

Police said both were arrested for assault with a weapon and later released from custody with promises to appear in court at a later date.

A 35-year-old man — a coach from Sagkeeng First Nation — was charged with assault back in April for allegedly attacking a referee.

During the game in February between teams from Sagkeeng First Nation and Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, referees stepped in to stop a scuffle between two players.

The players were separated, but while making their way back to their team benches, a 12-year-old player from Sagkeeng used his stick to slash the Brokenhead player on the back of the legs.

As the two players began jostling again, a referee grabbed the Sagkeeng player and appeared to slip, knocking the boy to the ice as they both fell.

That prompted an assistant coach from Sagkeeng to run onto the ice and go after the 22-year-old referee, while other officials and coaches rushed into the melee.

In the days after the game, the mother of the boy knocked down by the referee called for criminal charges against the referee. She claimed he had picked her son up and slammed him onto the ice on purpose.

The boy suffered a broken wrist and a bruised back.

The referee was never charged, but the Southeast Tribal Council, which hosts the annual tournament, announced in April that the Sagkeeng coach and a player were being suspended. 

Two days later, Winnipeg police announced the coach had been charged criminally for his role.

They continued their investigation and on Sept. 25, arrested the two 12-year-old players in Pine Falls, a town neighbouring Sagkeeng First Nation.

Violence taints the sport: Hockey Manitoba

Hockey Manitoba is disappointed to hear two more young hockey players now face criminal charges.

Executive director Peter Woods said it's another black eye on the sport, after a hockey game turned into a brawl in March.

"It's disappointing because this [was] a non-sanctioned event," he said. "But they are associated with the game of hockey [and] we get painted here with the same brush, in a sense."

Woods said he's dismayed to hear that hockey sticks were considered weapons.

"That's not the primary use for a hockey stick," he said. "You know, it's usually for scoring goals."

Woods said he's not sure why violence keeps breaking out on the ice. 

"I don't know why something like this would happen, other than just a victim of society and the way that society is going, that it seems to be a little bit more violent at times," he said. "I think we all need to be concerned about that."