WINNIPEG – A peewee hockey coach from Manitoba says one of her 12-year-old players has a broken wrist after being taken down hard to the ice by a referee attempting to break up a fight.
The player was hurt in the dying minutes of a semifinal game between teams from the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation and the Sagkeeng First Nation as part of the Southeast Winter Tribal Days annual hockey tournament in Winnipeg on Sunday.
“It was a very good hockey game,” said Sagkeeng coach Stepahnie Tardiff. “It wasn’t clean, clean — no hockey game is clean … but it was very good game between both teams.”
Tardiff said Brokenhead was on its way to a 4-0 victory when a fracas started around the Sagkeeng net.
As the referees pulled the kids apart, Tardiff says a Brokenhead player skated in front of the Sagkeeng bench and taunted the players.
A video from the stands posted to YouTube showed a tense scene, with a parent screaming “get your hands off my kids,” from the stands as officials broke up the kids in front of the net.
A Sagkeeng player responded to the Brokenhead player in front of the bench with a slash to the legs and the two began punching each other.
That’s when one of the referees appeared to grab the Sagkeeng player from behind and take him down to the ice, falling on top of him.
“He should have easily been able to separate the two of them,” Tardiff said. “Instead of separating them properly, he grabbed my player with both hands and threw him on the ice.
“That ref should have never put two hands on one player. He should have put one hand on one player, one hand on the other player and separated them properly.”
As the player and the referee fell to the ice, the crowd erupted in a rage and an adult jumped off the bench to tussle with the referee. The referee managed to break free of the scuffle and slammed his helmet down as he left the ice to a shower of expletives from the fans.
Tardiff said the altercation continued between parents, coaches and the official off the ice, but she didn’t see what happened as she was busy getting her players into the dressing room.
She said the injured player managed to get off the ice under his own power, but was taken to hospital by ambulance in a neck brace. He will be in a cast for two weeks.
Police were called to the scene and are investigating. No charges have been laid.
The tournament organizer who Tardiff said was responsible for hiring the referees did not return phone calls.
Tardiff said there was a history between the unidentified official and her team. She said the same referee called 18 penalties against her team earlier in the tournament and he had thrown her out of a game on Saturday for telling him to stop swearing at her players.
She said the referee threw her fellow coach out of Sunday’s game before it even began citing a water bottle throwing incident from earlier in the tournament.
“He already didn’t like us from the beginning,” she said.
Todd Thornton, president of the community centre where the game was played, said the tournament wasn’t played under the auspices of Hockey Winnipeg or Hockey Manitoba.
Thornton called the incident was unfortunate.
Tardiff said she hopes the official is not allowed to referee again.
“As a coach and a parent, I put my kids on the ice expecting that they are going to be in safe hands and be reffed a clean, fair, even game, not be harmed by a ref.”
— With files from CJOB in Winnipeg.