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Dressing-room punch-up in Fargo

Parents, coaches fight; River East team tossed

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Parents and coaches from two Manitoba hockey teams threw punches in front of 14 'terrified' eight-year-old boys in their dressing room in Fargo on Sunday.

"We have parents that get into arguments -- we've never had fists fly," Mike Prochnow of the West Fargo Hockey Association said Tuesday.

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News of the incident broke on Fargo radio the day before Hockey Winnipeg is expected to require parents to take mandatory Respect in Sport courses before their sons and daughters are allowed to play.

Prochnow said police investigated but did not lay charges. Fargo tournament officials told the River East Royals (White) team -- two of whose parents invaded the Selkirk Steelers dressing room -- to go home, he said.

"We basically said this is unacceptable.You don't go into the locker-room. We asked them to leave."

Fargo officials took no sanctions against the Selkirk team, whose coaches also threw punches, Prochnow said.

He said witnesses and police have reported a mother from the River East team went into the Selkirk dressing room after their consolation-round game, complaining about on-ice incidents.

She refused to leave, her husband followed her into the dressing room and it quickly got physical, Prochnow said. He said the woman's husband threw the first punch and got the worst of it -- a black eye and bloody lip. The children were "terrified," he said.

"That is true -- that there were punches thrown by both," but the Selkirk coaches were protecting the kids, so that team was not thrown out of the tournament, Prochnow said.

"The coaches in the dressing room, they apparently threw punches. It wasn't right -- those coaches, it's their job to protect their kids," he said.

Lord Selkirk Minor Hockey Association president Todd Cook said the incident is "quite disturbing, the age of the children witnessing this. We'll be acting very strongly. We do definitely take this stuff very seriously."

Cook said the two associations will meet soon with Hockey Winnipeg to sort it out. Unfortunately, "we've dealt with a lot of parent issues," Cook said.

River East Minor Hockey Association officials could not be reached Tuesday.

Hockey Winnipeg executive director Monte Miller said Tuesday afternoon the organization is aware of the altercation.

"The police were involved, but no one pressed any charges," he said. "That's surprising, considering there was some physical contact."

Miller said information is still being gathered from the two local associations, and he hasn't yet received a report from the West Fargo association. "We have dealt with something of this kind of thing before, so there are different ways to handle it."

He said the rules are clearer when players, coaches or team managers cross the line. Doling out punishment when parents are involved can be more complex.

"It depends on how severe it is," Miller said. "We can suspend them for conduct unbecoming... we can ban them from the rink.

"It's just another reason why we have investigated the Respect in Sport parent program."

Prochnow said the "Mite" age-group tournament runs every year in Fargo.

"There's 14 Canadian teams, usually. The parents get a little rowdy in the stands," he said.

"We just like having a goodwill tournament with a bunch of little kids."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2014 A3

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