Avalon East League to investigate violent senior hockey brawl
The president of the Avalon East Senior Hockey League says a violent fight followed by cruel taunting at a St. John's senior hockey game this past Sunday is "unfortunate", and the league is investigating what happened.
"It's unfortunate that it became a public issue, and the league itself is reviewing the whole process and what went on," said David Brazil, who is also the MHA for Conception Bay East - Bell Island.
"We all accept that hockey is a physical sport. No doubt it's based on emotions and these types of things and there's always barbs back and forth and there's always jostling back and forth," Brazil continued.
"But we do ask all coaches, players, executive members to stay to a higher standard here."
Coaches have differing versions of events
On Thursday, Todd Gillingham, the coach of the North East Senior Eagles, and a former St. John's Maple Leaf, said one of his players had his mouth ripped open by a player from the opposing St. John's Caps.
That player was later treated in hospital.
Gillingham said when he reacted to the encounter with disgust, the other benched mocked him by making drinking gestures with their hands.
Gillingham has batted alcoholism for many years.
Wally Bray, the coach of the St. John's Caps, said he heard nothing about the player's mouth injury, and denied that his team members had been making drinking gestures.
Bray also said that Gillingham has had a history of being ejected from senior hockey games for verbal abuse and other behaviour.
Hockey blogger 'sick to the stomach'
Barry Wheeler, who runs a popular local blog called nlhockeytalk.ca, said he has recieved correspondence from spectators who were at that senior hockey game when the fight broke out.
"To hear of such a thing occuring, it makes me sick to the stomach," said Wheeler.
"It's not fan friendly, it's not family friendly."
Wheeler said the hockey fans have told him after the fight, some nasty interactions occurred.
"They say it happened. That it was clear. There were words exchanged, those were in the heat of the moment," said Wheeler.
"There were definite motions that the taunting did occur."
After the fight and the nasty verbal exchange, Wheeler said the fans left, and told him they were "done with senior hockey."
Wheeler said attendance at senior hockey games has fallen over the past couple of years, and the league is in the process of restructuring.
He said that incidents like this will not help convince more people to attend games and support the league.
"It makes me wonder where it is going to stop," said Wheeler.
League plans meeting
Meanwhile, Brazil said the executive members of the league are in the process of reviewing the notes of referees at the game, and talking to everyone who was involved in the incident to try to piece together their own picture of what happened.
He's also going to consult with the province's chief referee to address the role of referrees in situations such as this one.
After that, said Brazil, he will be calling a league meeting to read members the "riot act".