Hockey player, 12, hurt in scuffle involving referee, coach

The parents of a 12-year-boy who was injured during a hockey tournament at a Winnipeg community arena want a referee to face a criminal charge.

Incident took place at Southeast Aboriginal Tournament in Winnipeg

Hockey player, 12, hurt in scuffle involving referee, coach

8 years ago
Parents of a 12-year-boy who was injured during a hockey tournament at a Winnipeg community arena want a referee to face a criminal charge. 2:04

The parents of a 12-year-boy who was injured during a hockey tournament at a Winnipeg community arena want a referee to face a criminal charge.

The boy, who was playing in the Southeast Aboriginal Tournament on Sunday, was carried away on a stretcher and taken to hospital after a scuffle with a referee.

The boy, Kainen Bell, is now recovering at home with a cast on his arm.

"You know, he is sore. He has got a tender neck, bruised back, broken wrist," said his father, Robert Bell.

"It is horrible, absolutely horrible."

Winnipeg police said they were called about a fight at the Southdale Community Centre at about 2 p.m. The teams involved were from Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and Sagkeeng First Nation.

A video taken at the game and posted to YouTube shows referees stepping in to stop a scuffle between Bell and an opposing player, while a woman can be heard shouting, "Hey, get your hands off our kids."

Kainen Bell, 12, is recovering at home on Monday with a broken wrist and a bruised back, according to his father. (Submitted by Robert Bell)
After the players are separated and while making their way back to their team benches, Bell uses his stick to slash the opponent on the back of the legs.

As the two players begin fighting again, a referee skates in to break it up. He grabs Bell but appears to slip, knocking the boy to the ground as they both fall.

Kainen Bell told CBC News that the referee picked him up from under the arms and slammed him onto the ice.

"The ref fell on me and my hand, like, bent back," he said. "Then he landed on it and then it bent all the way back."

The video shows an assistant coach from Bell's team, the Sagkeeng Hawks, who runs onto the ice and goes after the referee while other officials and coaches rush to the melee.

The video is peppered with swear words from the crowd, mostly directed at the ref who skates off the ice, tossing his helmet down as he goes.

Tensions remained high after the on-ice incident, leading to an altercation between several adults in a hallway between two rinks at the community centre, police said, adding an investigation is underway into whether any charges will be laid.

The boy's parents said they want the referee to be disciplined and criminally charged, adding that they are planning to speak to a lawyer.

"I don't want to see any other kids being manhandled like that. No kid should be grabbed like that," said Brenda Bell, Kainen's mother.

As for Kainen, he said he hopes to get a different cast on his arm next week so he can continue to play hockey.

Referee's defenders

The referee involved in the incident declined comment on Monday. He is 22 years old and certified to referee games, according to officials with the community centre where the tournament took place.

Southdale Community Centre president Todd Thornton called it an unfortunate incident.

“Do I think the referee purposely slammed the boy to the ice? Absolutely not,” he said.

“He did what he needed to do to break up the scrum so nothing else would continue and unfortunately ended up on top of the boy.”

Joyce Webinger, the manager on duty at the time of the tournament, said she spoke with the referee and believes he was following protocol.

"I think that he kind of went in too fast and then he just kind of slipped," she said.

"He still held the kid down — and that's procedure, because you don't want the kid to get loose again to, you know, go after someone else."

Webinger said the assistant coach broke the rules when he ran onto the ice.

But Robert Bell defended the coach's actions, even though they went against hockey rules.

"It seems he was defending our player. You know, my hat goes off to him," he said.

"What he did was right because … what would happen if he didn't?"

Another referee from the same tournament, Dave Bilyk, also said he does not believe the injury to Kainen Bell was deliberate.

Bilyk said he has worked with the referee in question before and described him as a "nice guy" who sees the game well.

"From what I heard, incidents started on ice with him trying to contain a player."

The tournament was not sanctioned by Hockey Manitoba, so officials with the governing body would not comment on the incident.