Northern B.C. hockey teams are asking Central Interior Hockey League (CIHL) to rethink fines after having to cough up exorbitant amounts for missing games due to COVID-19.
Terrace River Kings paid $7,000 in fines after they skipped two games, against the Quesnel Kangaroos and Williams Lake Stampeders, earlier this month due to COVID-19 positive players.
The fine was imposed by the CIHL as part of the league’s long-standing game rule where a team can be fined $3,500 upon cancelling a game. Failure to pay the fine can lead to disqualification from the playoffs. If the game is rescheduled the team can get back $1,500 of the fine amount.
All River Kings players are double vaccinated and those who had tested positive have finished their isolation period and are fully recovered, said Terrace River Kings general manager Ross Smith. He said the team chose to miss its games against Williams Lake and Quesnel to avoid spreading the virus.
He called the fines “unfair,” especially during “COVID-19 times” when several teams across different leagues are cancelling games due to the virus.
“I don’t think it’s right…when nobody else in B.C. is getting fined for missing games,” said Smith.
The Quesnel Kangaroos could have found themselves in a similar situation after having to reschedule their Jan. 15 game against the Nechako Northstars in Vanderhoof to Jan. 23.
Captain Alessio Tomassetti said the Kangaroos did not get fined, however, because they had canceled well in advance knowing full well they did not have enough players to ice a lineup due to COVID.
“It’s going to happen more and more with COVID-19 around but we are hoping the league will not fine teams for COVID outbreaks moving forward because it’s out of everyone’s control,” Tomassetti told Black Press Media.
Given these circumstances the Kangaroos captain is hoping the league will make a change.
Raking up hefty fines can be detrimental for local hockey teams that rely on community sponsorships, added Smith.
The River Kings paid the full fine amount ahead of their game with Prince Rupert Rampage last weekend (Jan. 15) but have appealed internally with the league to get the money back. If no resolution is reached internally, the River Kings are set to appeal to BC Hockey.
“If we don’t get our money back, there’s a chance we won’t be playing next year,” said Smith. “We’re a community sponsored team and our sponsors don’t want to see their money rolled out on fines.”
In the current season that began on Oct. 16, out of the seven participating teams, the River Kings are in first place, undefeated with nine wins and one tie (19 points) with the Prince Rupert Rampage in second place with 12 points.
CIHL president Ron German, who is also the general manager of the Prince Rupert Rampage, did not wish to comment on the fines imposed on River Kings. He said the River Kings need to follow an appeal process to contest the fines.
German also did not comment on whether the league would reconsider the conditions of the fines for teams affected by COVID-19 in the future.
has yet to respond to Black Press Media’s request for comment.
—With files from Cassidy Dankochik and Rebecca Dyok
(Editor’s Note: Quesnel Kangaroos Captain Alessio Tomassetti clarified Quesnel was not fined as he previously stated in an earlier version of this story)