Efforts to increase safety at Sudbury Wolves games are being made in the wake of an incident at the Sudbury Community Arena last week.
Following last Friday's game between the Saginaw Spirit and Sudbury Wolves, Spirit goaltender, 16-year-old Tristan Lennox, was allegedly struck in the face with a half full can of beer that was hurled from the stands.
Lennox was filling in for injured Spirit backup goaltender Cameron Lamour and Friday's game in Sudbury was the teenager's first-ever OHL start. The young netminder wasn't hurt in the incident, but the Sudbury Wolves are taking a hard stance against unruly fan behaviour.
"Player and patron safety is a number one concern of ours," said Andrew Dale, Sudbury Wolves VP of marketing and business development. "We believe this is an isolated incident, but we have stepped up our awareness around the end of periods when players are going on and off the ice.
"We're making sure that from a concession operator standpoint that our arena monitors are in those areas and not distributed throughout the arena at those times so that more eyes are on the area."
The Wolves are a joint partner in the operation of the Sudbury Community Arena, along with the city of Greater Sudbury. The city employs the security staff that work at the arena on game days and during other events such as concerts.
Security staff will remain in place as they have been in the past.
The incident has been investigated by the team, says Dale, and while there was no video evidence of the incident, there were a number of eyewitnesses who saw what happened.
"There are representatives of both the city facility operations as well as the arena concession operations who had a visual on the suspect," said Dale. "The suspect has not returned to the arena to date."
A number of arenas that host professional and amateur sports teams have opted out of serving alcohol in cans and bottles, and instead pour the beverages into plastic cups. The Sudbury Arena does exercise this practice, but only for specific events such as concerts, where draft beer is being sold.
When it comes to Sudbury Wolves and Sudbury Five games at the Sudbury Arena, there are no plans in place to change the way that beer is served.
"At this point in time our investigation has not led to a problem so no change in policy is being contemplated at this time," said Dale. "When you go into large scale policy decisions you have to put a lot of things on the table as far as efficiecies, costs, the environment, so I think we'll certainly observe it, but again, it's an isolated incident in our opinion."
The city has the power to ban patrons from the arena for unruly behaviour, and that has been done in the past, though no legal action has been taken as yet in relation Friday's incident.
The Wolves organization has reached out to Saginaw Spirit management and there is an overarching understanding that player safety is of the utmost importance to all teams around the league.
"As a member club of the OHL, the Sudbury Wolves wish to have confidence in all of the other teams when our team is visiting and we trust that other member teams and operators have the same interests in mind as we do," said Dale. "This is an isolated incident and is something that we're monitoring much more closely."
Dale will be filing a report with the OHL about the incident.
"We anticipate that our fans bring good behaviour. They come for excitement and to cheer on the Wolves and in our opinion we want that energy," said Dale. "We just want people to behave like most people would expect."