Athletic association decision does little credit and much harm

The Sudbury District Secondary Schools’ Athletic Association’s (SDSSAA) recent Board of Reference (BOR) decision regarding a Lockerby Composite School boys’ hockey team complaint (that hinged on aspects of a Manitoulin home game two Fridays ago) seems nothing short of unusually punitive.

The judgment, although upholding the suspension of several Lockerby players, also requires Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) to put in place a series of new measures at all home games that involve the Lockerby team and to also add an extra layer of refereeing with costs divided between the league and MSS, clearly implying that local refereeing alone is not fair or at least could be seen to be not fair.

These include the requirement that part of the refereeing staff will be from Sudbury (for whom MSS will have to provide a meal allowance).

The SDSSAA written decision says it has no jurisdiction to comment on refereeing at the game in question but then goes on to require the additional refereeing staff from Sudbury and also states, in a forehand shot at the Island refs, that the actions of the Lockerby players can perhaps be understood in light of the refereeing at the game.

The organization that reviewed the Lockerby complaint did not invite either the MSS boys hockey team coach or the individual who refereed the January 16 game to attend or to comment and these two learned there had been a complaint and a review of that complaint after the decision had been rendered.

This commentary should not be considered as excusing bad behaviour on the part of one side or the other and certainly not as “Manitoulin: right or wrong.”

It is, however, intended to question the process and the seeming intentional exclusion of MSS input into the process before a decision was reached because, as noted earlier, the decision is so very punitive for Manitoulin Secondary School both financially and as it appears to tarnish the reputation of the more than 40-year-old school. It is also a shot at the Island refereeing community (and particularly Jason Thibault who was the chief official during the controversial game).

There were concerns expressed about the treatment of the Lockerby players as they left the arena (after the referee ended the game with six minutes left on the clock in the third period) by a group outside the arena who apparently taunted them as they got on their bus.

This, of course, is totally unacceptable behaviour.

There is a further stipulation in the decision following the complaint that should both the Lockerby and the MSS squads make it into league finals, Manitoulin home games that involve Lockerby Composite School must be played during the afternoons thus, presumably, largely precluding attendance by other MSS students who would be still at school as well as by most working adults and rendering the local fan base to the “slim to none” category.

The decision as it stands is derisive and insulting, not only to the team and the school but to the whole Island community.

It reads very much as if it was written in anger and surely this impulse is inappropriate for people charged with rendering any judicial responsibility, at any level.

If things “got out of hand” following the penalty levied against the Lockerby player when he apparently grabbed another player by his face mask and then escalated when he was thrown out of the rest of the game for his response to the referee’s call, surely that can be dealt with in other ways than by making the MSS team, its fans and the community appear as thugs. This would be the logical conclusion that would be drawn by most people who might read the judgment and have no prior idea of what had gone on during that game or about the ordinary fan deportment at MSS home games and that Manitoulin officiating could be seen as lacking in professionalism.

The decision is already causing problems: no Sudbury official could be found to help officiate at what should have been last Friday’s MSS home game and so the game was not played and will have to be made up at some time during the rest of the regular season. Presumably, this could keep on happening as the pre-playoff clock runs down for the Mustangs.

This decision by the SDSSAA must be revisited with cooler heads now that everyone has had a couple of weeks to sleep on the situation and to come up with less punitive solutions for identifiable problems.