Hockey trip turns into 'week of hell' with late equipment, missed games and delayed flights

Ted Dillon/CBC

One of the biggest tournaments of the year for a St. John's hockey team was "a week of hell" after their airline put their equipment on a different flight, followed by a slew of delays.

The Pinnacle Growlers AAA major midget team left Jan. 8 for Halifax, but none of their equipment arrived with them. And that was just the start of the problems.

"So much stress, uncertainty, expense and the worst communication you could ever believe," Valerie Hynes, a parent of one of the players, told CBC on Tuesday.

Misdirected bags

According to Hynes, Air Canada told the U17 team that its bags were put on a plane to Toronto but would be on the next flight to Halifax and should arrive at 1 a.m. the following day. But the bags didn't arrive on that flight nor on the next one.

Paula Gale/CBC

By the time the bags arrived in the late afternoon on the second day of their trip, the boys had already missed two games, but tournament organizers agreed to reschedule them once the bags arrived. That left the team playing three games in 18 hours. 

"To go up and play that type of tournament in that amount of time … we made the best out of a bad situation. But by the time the third game come, they had nothing left," said Steve Manuel, general manager and co-owner of the team.

Flight delay

However, their bad luck didn't end there. The boys were scheduled to fly home Sunday but the flight kept getting delayed, Hynes said the changed itinerary stated it was due to crew availability. 

Eventually Air Canada cancelled the flight, this time citing weather issues.

"Air Canada changed its story [from] crew availability to all of a sudden it's weather and there is no answers about accommodations, vouchers, meals, all these sorts of things," said Hynes, who added it was a struggle to find a hotel that could take 22 players late at night. 

Ted Dillon/CBC

The next morning the team went back to the airport but Air Canada told them they couldn't accommodate such a large group. The group finally flew back to St. John's on Tuesday morning and are happy to be home.

"My main concern was to make sure these kids got home safe and sound," said Manuel.

Manuel said the tournament cost the team $35,000, and if he had known the bags wouldn't be put on the flight in the first place they never would have gone.

'A week of hell'

"It's unfortunate that you have a team that works so hard to go there. There's scouts involved, teams are getting looked at," he said. "A week of hell."

Air Canada said in in a statement that due to poor weather the flight from St. John's to Halifax had to carry extra fuel and a reduced baggage load for safety reasons.

"To ensure more timely delivery, the equipment was transported via Toronto on [a] larger aircraft," the statement read. 

"We regret any inconvenience it may have caused."

Lack of communication

Hynes said during the week they received mixed messages from the airline and it wasn't until Monday that a staff member from Air Canada admitted the airline made a mistake.

"If it's clear, if it's accurate, people can deal. There are worse things that can go on in the world," she said. 

"But when you get mixed messages and you're exhausted and you've been waiting for so long and you feel like you're being lied to, that's when everything goes off the rails."

The ordeal has left Hynes wondering what the new passenger bill of rights has improved for passengers. She says the team should get some sort of compensation but is unsure how to pursue it.

"It doesn't bring the kids home, it doesn't give them their games back, [but] it does make this right."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador