By Keith Lacey
A Sudbury Minor Hockey Association bantam game was cancelled last week after the referee and linesmen boycotted their assignments.
They refused to officiate to protest their concerns over how the Sudbury Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) has handled a situation involving a parent of one of the 15-year-old players. Officials accuse the parent of verbally abusing and threatening them on at least three occasions during the past 18 months.
The verbal threats were at least twice followed by threats of violence, say several sources.
After initiating phone calls to retrieve information about this allegation of "rink rage", Northern Life has discovered there's a huge controversy brewing within minor hockey circles in the City of Greater Sudbury.
It must be noted the entire controversy surrounds one team and one team only - Sudbury Woodland Warriors AA Bantams - and should not tarnish an entire minor hockey association.
During a series of articles that will run over the next week, Northern Life will write about a myriad of problems which have surrounded the Warriors all season.
We'll talk to the head coach who doesn't believe he's done anything wrong, a father who believes the coach has contravened numerous rules all in the name of winning, and minor hockey administrators involved in the entire mess.
Some of the allegations include:
* Warriors coach Chris Fillator held a pre-season training camp and then "stacked his team" with ineligible players who hadn't received proper release forms.
* A private investigator was hired by a rival minor hockey association (NOHA) to conduct an investigation on whether certain SMHA players were telling the truth about where they lived.
* Parents swore affidavits under oath at the Sudbury Courthouse before a justice of the peace claiming their sons had indeed changed addresses and moved to Sudbury to make them eligible to play for the bantam team.
* Parents from opposing teams claim the Warriors have broken dozens of rules and regulations
* Players are suspended and then reinstated once legal action was threatened by their parents.
While most minor hockey teams function without any major problems, the circumstances surrounding the 2001-02 Woodland Warriors clearly illustrate how ego, politics, jealousy, the influence of parents and an insatiable desire to win rather than playing simply for fun can add up to conflict, disputes, anger, accusations and tension for players, coaches, parents and administrators.
The scope of what's gone on in relation to this one hockey team so far this season would make any soap opera fan blush.
One thing which is clear after talking to numerous parties is so-called "rink rage" isn't a serious problem within minor hockey circles in and around Sudbury.
However, administrators, coaches and parents have managed to spend literally hundreds of hours and mounted hundreds of pages of documents all relating to the Woodland Warriors Bantams.
In part one of our series, which starts on page 6, we'll detail how one hockey dad's sporadic temper tantrums resulted in a small mountain of paperwork, emergency meetings, officials threatening to and then withdrawing their services and, in one incident, police being called to an arena one week before Christmas.