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This article was published 14/4/2016 (1312 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
STEINBACH — Fierce competition was quickly overshadowed by controversy on Day 4 of the 108th Allan Cup in Steinbach Thursday.
As fans filled the seats at T.G. Smith Arena and players warmed up for a 4 p.m. quarter-finals matchup between the Shellbrook Elks and Île-des- Chênes North Stars, the game was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt.
A lengthy delay lasting more than an hour then ensued, as rumours began to swirl that the North Stars had exceeded the maximum number of import players with seven — a roster they had already used for two games in round-robin play.
Frustration would eventually peak once officials announced their final decision: Île-des-Chênes was guilty of one extra import, but the mistake was deemed a "clerical error." As a result, the North Stars would have to forfeit their win earlier in the week — they lost the other game — but would remain in the tournament. The decision, voted on by a representative of each team and a member of Hockey Canada, was between two options, the other being disqualification from the tournament.
"It was decided the best course of action through their lawyer at Hockey Canada was to still play two games today," said Jared Driedger, chairman of the host committee.
As a result, the standings needed to be shuffled as points were redistributed between teams and therefore, changes to the schedule were made. The game that was originally to be played at 4 p.m. would now start at 8, with the Shellbrook Elks beating the Stoney Creek Generals 7-4.
Île-des-Chênes was then to play another Manitoba team, the South East Prairie Thunder, at 10:30 p.m. The game was in progress at press time.
"It’s a disgrace," said Shellbrook head coach Leigh Spencer. "A prestigious tournament like this, to have something like this happen is disappointing."
Spencer wasn’t alone in his frustration. As the verdict rippled through each dressing room, teams were quick to voice their displeasure at what they believed to be a gross violation of mandated rules and a shot against the integrity of the tournament.
"We’re supposed to know our rules and were supposed to abide by them," said Jeff McInnis, head coach for the Bentley Generals. "Our rules should be policed as tight as the (explitive) border is."
"If the rules are broken, the rules are broken. That’s why we have them. If we don’t follow these rules, then shame on us."
Al Hubbs, a member of Hockey Canada’s board of directors, said he understood the frustration but believed the vote to be fair — not just for the team but for everyone involved.
"You have to think of the benefit of everybody: the teams, the host committee, the fans," he said, echoing the sentiment that it was just an honest mistake. "It’s too bad that we hadn’t known sooner."
Perhaps most embarrassing of all was the fact Hockey Manitoba was charged with most of the blame; an administrative error at their end that resulted in the North Stars roster being cleared for play weeks before the start of the tournament.
An import is "anyone who has to be transferred back into Manitoba or into any branch from outside their branch, at any time of year," said Ray Brethour, the chairman of senior hockey for Hockey Manitoba.
"So if you had a player coming from Saskatchewan, he would have to be inter-branch transferred; coming in he would show as an import for one year," he added. "This is a scenario we ran into with some of the players the North Stars signed."
Brethour said the issue was first brought to the tournament’s attention through an email in the mid-afternoon, but he was unaware who sent it or what it said. Another source said the email was intended to question the start time of the North Stars game Thursday but instead accidentally triggered an investigation by Hockey Canada.
"We have to stand up and take the finger-pointing because that was an error on our part, and we just have to take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again," said Brethour. "Obviously we’re going to revamp our whole registration format for this."
But it will be the host committee left to pick up the pieces. Tickets for the 4 p.m. game were refunded, and the amount of money expected to be brought in from the host team now playing at 10:30 p.m. will surely be lower. How much, it’s too early to say, but the controversy has created a black eye, one that may not heal by Saturday’s finale.
"If they’re going to talk about the Steinbach tournament, this is one thing that they’re going to remember," said Marv Kornelson, vice-president of the host committee and manager for the Prairie Thunder. "I’m thinking it won’t be as a positive, but we’ve just got to come and play hockey."
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.