Hockey Canada says no to Midgets

Hockey Canada’s decision is in, and it wasn’t the one the Terrace Midget Reps were hoping for.

Hockey Canada’s decision is in, and it wasn’t the one the Terrace Midget Reps were hoping for.

On March 13, the chairman of Hockey Canada’s national appeals committee (NAC), Allan Matthews, issued a letter denying the team’s appeal to Hockey Canada.

The team wanted Hockey Canada to overturn the ruling by BC Hockey that rendered their provincial hopes over – or at least allow them into another tournament, like the Tier 2 tournament in West Kelowna.

“While the NAC is sympathetic to the Terrace team, it is satisfied that BC Hockey applied the Regulation correctly and, as such, the NAC sees no basis for overturning the Branch decision,” he says in the letter, while also noting that Hockey Canada does not have the jurisdiction to allow Terrace to enter into another tournament.

Terrace’s end-of-season tournament has been hanging in limbo for the last few weeks as various appeals involving their challenged northwest zone provincial win worked their way through the system.

For almost a week following the Feb. 24 zone championship win against Smithers, the team thought it was heading to the Midget Tier 3 provincial championships.

But on March 2, the team was informed an appeal by Smithers involving an ineligible Terrace player during an earlier game had been accepted and Terrace was subsequently out of the provincial tournament.

Smithers went on to replay the final game against Kitimat and is currently at the provincial championships in Port Alberni that began March 17.

The committee accepted the position taken by BC Hockey in its appeal decision that the North West District Minor Hockey Association (NWDMHA) regulation stating “If a team is found to have played an ineligible player, the game is forfeited and the coach may be subject to further discipline by BC Hockey” is unequivocal, the letter states, nothing that the regulation does not provide any flexibility in its interpretation or application.

The Terrace team had hoped Hockey Canada would hold up its appeal on the grounds that the NWDMHA constitution states decisions made in the playoffs cannot be appealed to the Appeals Committee, that there was a flawed procedural process throughout the tournament.

They also cited what they called a major conflict of interest throughout the weekend, with the north west district official having a child on the Smithers’ team.

But NWDMHA reps have said they do not believe officials acted inappropriately or with ill-will, and that with few volunteers in the zone, sometimes perceived conflicts of interest are inevitable and it’s the job of these officials to be unbiased.

Hockey Canada would not comment directly on the appeals’ decision, but did confirm the decision was made via-teleconference March 13 by four committee officials from across Canada, and that the appeals committee members are not staff of Hockey Canada and are an independent body. Hockey Canada is the final say in minor hockey decisions, so there are no other bodies to appeal to.

For the 2012/2013 minor hockey season, Hockey Canada has heard 250 appeals, said Sean Kelly, speaking on behalf of Hockey Canada.

Hockey Canada’s appeals committee works a bit differently than BC Hockey’s appeals committee, in that all submissions are in writing. The BC Hockey appeals committee hears directly, usually via teleconference, from the appellant.

There has also been some discussion around whether or not Smithers was allowed to appeal because they were not directly involved in the Terrace-Kitimat game in question.

But BC Hockey ruled that because “they were affected by the decision, as the result of that game determined which team they would play in the championship game, the committee ruled that [Smithers] did have the requisite standing to bring the appeal,” states the BC Hockey appeal decision submitted to Hockey Canada.

Unsurpisingly, the Terrace team is disappointed with the ruling.

“The boys and us are definitely very very deflated over all this and feel that BC Hockey has failed us in this whole process,” said team manager Darren Munsen, noting they did not consider the unique circumstances of this case.

“We accept the fact that we are also partially to blame, but so is BC Hockey,” he said.

“They could easily have made it work for all parties but chose to stick to the harsh rules and its ultimately the kids who suffer the consequences here, where is the ‘fair play’ in all of this like they try to preach on everyone,” he said.

BC Hockey has said it deals in protocol and does not have the mandate to make decisions beyond whether or not procedural measures were followed.

And Munsen says this has shaped the players’ outlook.

“This is not sending a good message to these kids. They will never forget this and will never have any faith in the system ever again,” he said.

He laments that an otherwise successful season had to end this way – especially for the players where this was their last year in minor hockey.

And the team’s season really is over, as they are not able to enter into another year-end tournament so late in the season.

“They feel they settled this on the ice and the suspended player that played made absolutely no difference in that 10-1 win,” he said.

“Ultimately the better team won.”