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Woodland Warriors: real action behind the scenes

Last week, a group of 31 officials sent letters to the SMHA stating in no uncertain terms they would refuse to officiate any game involving the Sudbury Woodland Warriors AA Bantams.
Last week, a group of 31 officials sent letters to the SMHA stating in no uncertain terms they would refuse to officiate any game involving the Sudbury Woodland Warriors AA Bantams. They allege Sherman Chamberlain, the father of one of the players, had on three occasions verbally abused, intimidated and threatened on-ice officials during the past two seasons.

One game was boycotted before officials returned to their regular duties.

Richard Gosselin, referee-in-chief for the SMHA, said in numerous letters to SMHA brass that officials are afraid of Chamberlain and are extremely unhappy at how the SMHA has handled the situation.

Chamberlain said he's "sort of embarrassed...I know what I did was wrong and I am sorry."

However, now that many strict sanctions have been taken against him and after talking personally to Gosselin and other officials on several occasions since Christmas, Chamberlain said he believes his punishment has been served and the matter should be over.

"There's been an over-reaction that's gone on too long," said Chamberlain. "They (referees) want me banned from arenas and I think that's sort of ridiculous.

"I talked face to face with Richard Gosselin a couple of weeks ago and he told me everything was OK and had been straightened out. Then the next week, I find out the refs had boycotted the one game. Enough is enough because the kids are the ones suffering now."

Chamberlain reiterates he's sorry for any problems he's caused, admitting he lost his temper with officials more than once.

He has attended only a handful of games since Christmas and hasn't caused any trouble since and won't in the future, he told Northern Life.

"I've thought a lot about what I've done and I've purposely stayed away from my son's games," he said. "My son was suspended and then he was sick, so I haven't been to most of the games and I don't know why this (conflict) hasnt gone away."

Chamberlain said he's "learned lots" and realizes many other hockey parents know how much trouble he's caused. He simply wants to watch his son play hockey without further incidents.

"I feel terrible...I've caused quite a mess, but some people are trying to prove a point at my expense and this whole mess should be over by now," he said.

During the most serious altercation in mid-December, Greater Sudbury Police were called to an arena after an official claimed Chamberlain verbally abused him.

During this incident, Chamberlain and other witnesses claim a younger official intervened, grabbed Chamberlain and threw him against the wall, ripping his shirt.

Chamberlain said he was going to file an assault charge, but realized he had created the initial tension and decided no further action was necessary.

He realized he had to learn to control his anger toward hockey officials, and he's made a conscious effort to do so, he said.

The animosity isn't a one-way street and he's not entirely to blame, but accepts responsibility for his actions and won't be causing any more problems, said Chamberlain.

SMHA president furious

Meanwhile, Dave Stalker, president of the SMHA, is furious with Gosselin and the officials, stating the association doesn't have the authority to ban any parent from any public building. He's also furious Gosselin and his officials are disobeying orders from their employers - the SMHA - by refusing to do their jobs.
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Dave Stalker

An emergency SMHA board meeting was held in late January specifically to deal with Chamberlain's actions, said Stalker.

It was agreed two "mentors" would stand beside him at games to ensure he behaves.

Chamberlain had to sign an agreement to this effect and promise not to confront any official for the rest of the season, said Stalker.

The written contract states "I further hereby agree that I will not have any contact with NOHA officials in or around the rink while the (team his son plays on) are playing" and is signed by Chamberlain.

Another minor hockey official, who didn't want his name used, strongly disagrees with Stalker saying officials have now documented three separate verbal attacks against referees by Chamberlain.

"This is not a good situation for any hockey association," he said. "What's happened here is a large group of officials are afraid of this guy."

During the last incident, Chamberlain "made fun" of an official with a physical disability and this only adds to his repeated indiscretions, he said.

While he agrees the SMHA board has taken steps to keep Chamberlain under control, he doesn't blame the officials for taking a hard-line stand, he said.

"There's been three separate incidents with three different officials and a lot of these referees are saying they're afraid of him and I tend to believe them," he said.

Sudbury Police did investigate the "rink rage" incident involving Chamberlain in December, but no charges were laid.

Documents indicate that after verbally abusing an official, Chamberlain was asked to leave. He initially refused and the game was delayed. He went to the lobby, but wouldn't leave the building. After the game, he confronted the same official, leading to the increase in tension and physical confrontation in the lobby.

The city doesn't provide security staff to monitor the behaviour of parents inside arenas.

Stalker, while in no way defending Chamberlain's actions, calling them "childish and stupid," said he believe the referees are "blowing this whole thing out of proportion."

Chamberlain has been severely reprimanded, now has mentors watching him at every game and there hasn't been another incident since Christmas. Several reports indicate the situation is well under control, said Stalker.

Part Two: League hires private investigator. If you have hockey tales or comments about this story, send an e-mail