The Neepawa Natives have accepted the resignation of head coach and general manager Bryant Perrier in the wake of ongoing league investigation into a hazing incident in late September involving a former 15-year-old player.
"Effective immediately, the Neepawa Natives Board of Directors have accepted the letter of resignation from Head Coach and General Manager Bryant Perrier as delivered on October 30, 2011," the team said, in a press release on Thursday afternoon.
"The Board wants to emphasize their gratitude to Mr. Perrier for reporting a September hazing incident to us immediately and the forthcoming manner in which he handled the situation in the days following. Doing the right thing is not always easy and we commend Mr. Perrier for taking the appropriate and difficult actions that he did during the league’s investigation."
A search for a new coach and GM has commenced, the press release added.
In two separate statements, the Natives also issued sweeping apologies on behalf of the organization and the team’s players.
One release said:
"The Neepawa Natives organization understands that our player’s actions have reflected poorly on our organization, our community, our league and hockey in general.
"For this we join the players in offering our sincerest apologies to the victims, our sponsors, our player’s parents, our fans and our community. We share the public’s position that such actions should not be part of the game that we love.
"As a Board, our goal was and remains the same – to build and oversee a Junior Hockey program to allow young players an opportunity to develop their personal and their hockey skills – on and off the ice.
"We know the events that occurred in the dressing room in late September and the weeks following has put this goal in jeopardy. We understand that an example needs to be made and we are prepared to accept our role to ensure it never happens again. Our organization has been put on the national stage in a most negative light. We accept this. What we cannot accept is that this somehow is a reflection of our community. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
"Make no mistake, this issue has rocked us hard and we had to consider every option. After a great deal of discussion we are here today to reconfirm and renew our commitment to Junior Hockey in Neepawa. We humbly ask that our players, fans, sponsors and the community renew their commitment to the Neepawa Natives."
Another release signed by "Natives leadership and players" said:
"In regards to the recent hazing allegations towards the Neepawa Natives, the players of the Natives would like to apologize to the players involved in the incident, our community, the organization, coaching staff, sponsors, loyal fans and all who have supported the program that has given so many players the opportunity to play Junior A hockey in a well established league.
"We would like to make it clear that the events that had taken place had no malicious intent and, in no way, were aimed to harm or ridicule any player on our team.
"First and foremost, no player was forced or threatened to take part in anything they were not comfortable doing, this was and remains a team policy from the start of the season. The victims of the incident participated in the events that took place in the month of September on their own will and were not pressured in any way by any member of the team. We are truly sorry for allowing this kind of immature behavior to happen in our dressing room.
"The acts that took place in our dressing room were simply a part of rookie initiations, and at the time, the team deemed them as harmless fun. However, now that we have put a great amount of thought into this, we realize that our actions were extremely inappropriate and unnecessary.
"We deeply regret partaking in such behavior, but most importantly, letting our actions affect so many people around us in a negative way. We, the Neepawa Natives, ask for forgiveness for our mistakes and a chance to move on and play the game we are all so truly passionate about."