High school hockey game called over violent hits was 'pretty typical' match, league head says

The president of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League says a championship series game that had to be called early Wednesday after a serious hit left a player needing to be taken off the ice by stretcher was a “typical game for high school hockey at that level.”

President of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League says game wasn't too rough

The best-of-3 series concluded Thursday night at the Bell MTS Iceplex. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

A Wednesday championship series hockey game that had to be called early after a serious hit saw a player taken off the ice by stretcher was a "typical game for high school hockey at that level," the president of the Winnipeg High School Hockey League says. 

The game between the Sturgeon Heights Huskies and the St. Paul's Crusaders — which had already seen several big hits — was called halfway through the third period after a player from the Crusaders cross-checked a Husky player from behind, sending him crashing head-first into the boards.

Video from the game shows paramedics wheeling the injured player away on a stretcher.

Earlier in Wednesday's game — the second in the league's best-of-three championship series — a player from St. Paul's also needed help getting off the ice following a hard hit into the boards.

'Those plays will happen'

Despite the injuries — and the fact the game was cancelled —  Mark Miles, president of the league, says the matchup wasn't particularly rough.

"It's a typical Division 1 game: fast-moving, hard-hitting and, unfortunately, there were a couple of hits where players got hurt," said Miles, who was at the game.

"Anytime it's a hitting from behind, you know, players need to understand [that] they need to stop when they see numbers and things like that.

"But it's a pretty typical game for high school hockey at that level."

One player from each team has been suspended for one game, which means they'll sit out the third and deciding game Thursday night.

St. Paul's won Wednesday night's game 5-0, while the Huskies took Game 1 with a 6-2 win on Monday.

'The game comes second'

Sturgeon Heights head coach Tyler Metcalfe said he decided to call the game because his team was already lagging far behind on the scoreboard and he wanted to make sure no one else was injured in the final minutes.

"The game was getting out of control at that point, it seemed. It's 5-0 and you don't expect big hits to come when the game is essentially out of reach for us," Metcalfe said Thursday.

"I think it was the right call for all parties involved to call it quits at that point of the game. There's nothing to gain other than to put more kids at risk."

Metcalfe said the injured player, who he can't name for privacy reasons, spent most of the night in hospital Wednesday undergoing tests and a CT scan.

He said the player — who is one of the top performers in the league — will be OK but is sitting out Thursday's final while recovering from a concussion.

I haven't been a part of too many games in my 25 years of experience that have been called early — but when there's the health of a kid at risk, the game comes second.- Sturgeon Heights head coach Tyler  Metcalfe

​Metcalfe said the level of violence in Wednesday's game isn't too common at the high school level.

"Certainly getting hit from behind isn't a normal occurrence, but if you came out and watched that game for the first time you might think otherwise."

He couldn't say, though, what led to the heavy hits seen on both sides throughout the tilt.

"Hockey is a funny game — things happen so fast and it's obviously a game where tempers flare," he said.

"But that being said, I haven't been a part of too many games in my 25 years of experience that have been called early — but when there's the health of a kid at risk, the game comes second."

Man watched one grandson hit other

Wayne Ostermann was at Wednesday's game, as he had two grandsons playing — one on each team.

"I saw one grandson hit the other grandson — that was the first guy that was injured and off the ice," Ostermann said.

"The hit was tough — but it was borderline if it was deliberate or not. I would say it wasn't deliberate, it was just in the heat of the game. And same with the second hit, in the heat of the game. 

"These guys get going and they play fast and hard." 

Ostermann says he watches plenty of minor hockey, with five grandkids all in the playoffs. 

If anything, he says Game 1 was rougher. 

"I personally thought that this game was better refereed than the game before, because the game before sort of started to get out of hand," he said.

"But they're just rambunctious kids. They're 15, 16, 17 years old. And they're in the playoffs. 

"There's lots of fan support, lots of enthusiasm in the crowd, and they just get swept up with that enthusiasm," he said. 
"Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt, as far as we know." 

'Those plays happen'

While Miles says it's rare to see paramedics take players off the ice, he added it's part of the game. 

"It's a good hockey game and those plays will happen from time to time," he said.

"It happens at every level. It's unfortunate and you don't want to see it happen, but the coaches have their players playing hard. It's an intense atmosphere when you're into the city championships."

Game 3 gets underway at the Bell MTS Iceplex at 5 p.m. Thursday.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Shane Gibson