Hockey Winnipeg has penalized a local couple for three years for their role in an altercation in the opposing team's dressing room last February.
The Winnipeg husband and wife were involved in the altercation in Fargo, N.D., on Feb. 8. Their eight-year-old son plays for the River East Royals (White).
The woman barged into the opposing Selkirk team's dressing room and began yelling at the Selkirk coach about how her son was treated in the game. The husband got into a physical altercation with the Selkirk Steelers coach.
Under the terms of the suspension, Hockey Winnipeg president Don McIntosh said the couple is banned from any "rink activity" at any arena at which their son is participating in Hockey Winnipeg-sanctioned games, practices, playoffs, tournaments and any other related activity such as a league championship medal ceremony.
It's the stiffest punishment ever handed out by the organization.
"After the Stonewall issue and some of the other issues that have been happening here in minor hockey, I think some people are thinking that the administrators aren't serious about some of this stuff," McIntosh said.
He was referring to Sunday's incident in Stonewall in which witnesses say a linesman was shoved and kicked by Lake Manitoba First Nation players during a bantam playoff game against Stonewall.
McIntosh said Hockey Winnipeg policies apply to registered members inside and outside Canada.
The River East (White) team was one of a number of Winnipeg-area teams participating in the Fargo tournament.
"We felt (the incident) was way beyond -- way over the top -- to go into the dressing room of another team, and we felt that we had to take a strong position," he said.
McIntosh said a decision was rendered on Feb. 18 after a Hockey Winnipeg investigation. The couple was informed by email that day. He said the suspension of the couple is effective Feb. 18 and will continue for the next three seasons.
The couple notified Hockey Winnipeg on March 27 they intend to appeal the suspension to Hockey Manitoba. No date has been set.
Hockey Winnipeg oversees the Winnipeg minor hockey teams and league play while Hockey Manitoba is the provincial governing body.
The Hockey Winnipeg investigation found the couple, whose names have not been officially released, responsible for the incident in Fargo.
"I had indicated to the parents that I was prepared to sign a confidentiality agreement due to the nature of the issue and the length of penalty that we were imposing," McIntosh said. "But I also said to them that if they appeal it to Hockey Manitoba, then we couldn't assure any confidentiality. They've now appealed, so I told them in the letter that we can't assure confidentiality."
McIntosh said the incident happened after a game between River East and Selkirk at an exhibition tournament in Fargo.
The woman went into the Selkirk dressing room and began yelling at the Selkirk coach.
"The coach told her to get out," McIntosh said. "There were 16 or 18 eight-year-old boys sitting in there... By her action, (she) traps those kids in that room. She clearly invaded their privacy.
"Then she's swearing and yelling at the coach in front of these eight-year-olds."
The coach was trying to convince her to leave when her husband showed up.
"He (husband) came over top of her and the allegation is that he punched the (Selkirk) coach in the chest. His evidence is he pushed the coach," McIntosh said. "Then what happened was a big melée. Some other people got involved and there was a big fight right there."
McIntosh said some of the youngsters have been traumatized by the violence.
"Some of those kids have had some difficulties since (seeing the fighting), not sleeping at night, that kind of thing," McIntosh said. "Talking to the (Selkirk) parents and coaches, it was difficult for them on the way home to explain what happened. The River East team was kicked out of the tournament so their parents and coaches had to explain to those kids why they're not in the tournament anymore."
McIntosh said players from another Manitoba team of eight-year-olds from the Oakbank/Springfield area also witnessed the scene as they were lined up in the hallway outside the door waiting to take the ice for the next game.
Their son, currently an 8A1 player, will be 12 years old and in his second year of peewee before his parents see him play again in person, if the Hockey Winnipeg decision stands.
"We referenced our (Hockey Winnipeg) rink behaviour policy, relative to spectators," McIntosh said. "Respect all officials and their decisions, demonstrate respect, encourage sportsmanship maintain self-control at all times. It's in our policy."
The couple faces no criminal charges.