Blame for the Terrace Midget Reps’ disqualification from zones should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the team’s coaching staff, says the president of Terrace Minor Hockey Association (TMHA).
Terrace was set to travel to provincials after winning the northwest zones in Smithers two weekends ago, but a ruling by BC Hockey that upheld an appeal by Smithers means it’s highly unlikely they will be representing the northwest at the tournament.
The northwest district officials who facilitated the tournament should own up to their part in the matter, said TMHA president Terri Soucie.
Smithers appealed to BC Hockey on the basis that Terrace should have forfeited their Saturday round robin game against Kitimat after a suspended player took to the ice.
This means Terrace would not have played in the championship game against Smithers.
“I’d say [our coaches] are 50 per cent to blame because those new suspension guidelines were sent out and they should have read it,” she said, noting the coaches are devastated at the oversight. “In September there was a new suspension guideline that was updated and anytime there was a checking from behind or a hit to head major no matter where it was in the game, the player had to miss the next game.”
Before, the player only missed the next game if the infraction occurred in the last 10 minutes of the third period.
During the tournament, held two weekends ago in Smithers, a Terrace player received a head checking major and was given a game misconduct during the Saturday morning game against Prince Rupert and as per the new guidelines, should not have suited up for the game against Kitimat. But the coaches were unaware of this rule and the player played for part of the game.
But while the coaches should have been aware of the rule and not dressed the player, the northwest district representative also had a responsibility to check the game sheet and notify the coaching staff about any ineligible players, said Soucie.
“The only reason why I know that for a fact is because the district asked me to be a district representative for the Peewee zones here in Terrace and those were the exact rules that I was told,” she said, noting that the tournament’s district reps share the other half of the blame. “If it was expected of me, it should have been expected of [the Smithers tournament representative].”
When Kitimat raised the issue of the ineligible player, northwest district officials made the decision to replay the game the next morning, without the offending player and coach. Terrace won the rematch and later won the finals against Smithers.
It was after this game that Smithers filed their appeal to BC Hockey, saying it should have been Kitimat they met in the finals, not Terrace.
BC Hockey’s appeals committee, based in Victoria and the Lower Mainland, met via teleconference last Saturday morning with northwest district officials and the Smithers’ rep who filed the appeal.
A Terrace representative was not part of the conference because the meeting was about the circumstances around the district’s decision to allow the game to be replayed the next day, said Barry Petrachenko, BC Hockey’s executive director.
The district made an error in allowing the Terrace-Kitimat game to be replayed, he said.
“It was pretty clearly a procedural misstep in the sense that the rules are very clear if a player is deemed ineligible and participates in a game, then that game is a forfeit,” he said, noting that the duty of the appeals committee is to ensure that proper procedure was followed in making a decision.
“Had they just declared it a forfeit at the time, Terrace would have been no happier, but it would have been a different situation altogether. Now having said that, I think the people who made the decision tried to make a decision that they felt was best for all and the best way to deal with the issue. I don’t think there was any kind of malice there, certainly they would have never anticipated that it would have turned out the way that it did.”
This situation highlights how important it is for coaches to know the rules around player eligibility, he said, noting that the rule is in place because there have been situations in the past where coaches have tried to take advantage of playing ineligible players in games away from the eyes of the league – although he said that wasn’t the case here.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it wasn’t intentional,” he said. “It doesn’t help so much on the wounds of this particular situation, but certainly I can pretty much guarantee that that rule will never be misunderstood again.”
One of the northwest district reps involved in the decision, Bob Storey from Fraser Lake, was not at the tournament but helped make the call to allow the game to be replayed.
“From what we thought at the time, there were several possible mitigating circumstances and wanting to try to play the game on the ice, suggested that they replay the game,” he said. “We didn’t ask BC Hockey, that was just the district’s decision.”
All of the teams agreed on this decision at the time, he said.
But Kitimat should have been given the option to just take the two points and not replay the game, he said, noting that option was not presented to them.
“That was a mistake on our part,” he said. “Ultimately, I think what we find out now is that we’ve got to follow the rules, and in hindsight, maybe that’s how we should have gone, just invoked the forfeit. It’s really unfortunate, I really feel bad for the kids – all of them.”
The Terrace Midget Reps are now in the process of appealing to Hockey Canada, citing a clause in the northwest district minor hockey constitution that states decisions made in the playoffs cannot be appealed to the Appeals Committee, and a flawed procedural process at the tournament. They are hoping for a decision that will allow them to play in the Tier 3 provincials as planned, or in the Tier 2 provincials.
It is unknown when that decision will be made, but BC Hockey’s Petrachenko has said Hockey Canada is aware that there are time constraints in this situation.
Provincials are set to begin in Port Alberni on March 17. A new northwest zone championship game between Kitimat and Smithers is set for tomorrow at 1:15 p.m. in Kitimat.