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Attacks on officials net assault charges

Two girls accused in on-ice incidents during Interlake bantam hockey final

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Chris Gareau photo / Winnipeg Free Press files
A linesman was punched in the head during an Interlake Minor Hockey Association bantam championship game on March 30.

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Chris Gareau photo / Winnipeg Free Press files A linesman was punched in the head during an Interlake Minor Hockey Association bantam championship game on March 30.

Two girls have been charged following on-ice attacks on two referees and a linesman during a playoff game in Stonewall earlier this year.

A 14-year-old girl from Lake Manitoba First Nation is charged with assault with a weapon and a 13-year-old teammate is charged with assault. The two youths are not in police custody. They will appear in Stonewall provincial court on Sept. 29.

The charges stem from several incidents of physical abuse of minor hockey officials that occurred on March 30 during an Interlake Minor Hockey Association (IMHA) bantam hockey championship game between the Stonewall Blues and Lake Manitoba First Nation (Dog Creek). Male and female players aged 13 and 14 participate in bantam hockey.

The game was called with about 11 minutes left in the third period by the three-person officials crew when a melee erupted in front of the Stonewall net and ugly behaviour ensued.

'We're disappointed that this incident occurred but we're not disappointed that law enforcement has decided to investigate and come up with their decision' -- Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods

At the time, Stonewall RCMP responded to the arena and remained on scene to clear the arena. There were no serious physical injuries.

"We're disappointed in any type (of situation) when law enforcement gets involved in our program but when there are incidents that are outside normality and exceed the rules that govern our sport, then we would welcome their participation," said Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods.

"If there is a perception, whether that is real or not, that the game is not safe to participate in, that's going to have a dire effect on our program. We're disappointed that this incident occurred but we're not disappointed that law enforcement has decided to investigate and come up with their decision."

The two girls are among three players who received suspensions April 21 from Hockey Manitoba.

A female player who shot the puck at a referee was suspended until Jan. 1, 2015. Another female player was suspended until Sept. 1, 2015, after she punched a linesman twice in the head and punched a referee in the groin. A male player from Lake Manitoba who shoved a linesman escorting him off the ice was suspended until Dec. 15, 2014.

The IMHA also issued a four-game suspension to a male Lake Manitoba player who kicked a Stonewall player.

At the time, Interlake referees called those punishments a "joke" and said they would not continue to work games involving teen players from Lake Manitoba because of ongoing safety concerns.

In late April, the IMHA voted to ban all Lake Manitoba First Nation bantam and midget hockey teams for a one-year period as part of a crackdown against on-ice violence.

Lake Manitoba players aged 12 and under will play next season out of Ashern, and not their home community. Lake Manitoba players aged 13 to 17 are free to find another league to play in next season.

Woods said criminal charges will impact the individuals more than any of the limited sanctions Hockey Manitoba has the power to impose.

"There's a responsibility of everyone that's associated with the sport, a parent, coach, player, official, they all have to take responsibility for the safety of all individuals in our program," Woods said. "I think that pressure needs to be internalized and needs to come from within instead of externally. I think that's where you're going to see greater change in our program is if everyone takes a responsibility."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2014 A6

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