A West Vancouver spring hockey club says it will no longer play teams from the Langley-based New Western Bruins because of alleged instances of dirty play and bad behaviour from coaches and parents.
"Our past encounters with the 2005 Bruins have seen rough and dangerous play, Bruins coaches ejected (twice), and verbal and physical threats by Bruins parents against Spartans parents and coaches," read the statement put out by B.C. Spartans manager James Wall.
Wall said concerns about the New Western Bruins organization go back years but the final straw came this past weekend when his 2005 Spartans team of 11-year-olds made it clear they didn`t want to play the Bruins in a tournament semi-final because they were scared.
'Our kids don't want to play'
"One hundred per cent they were," said Wall. "I overwhelmingly received emails and calls from our parents saying, 'Look James, our kids don't want to play them. They're not having fun and they don't want to go to this game.'"
"To me that's a red flag. The kids have earned this great opportunity to play in a semi-final which is usually so exciting and the kids are usually so happy to achieve that. And yet, they don't want to go."
Wall posted the penalty totals from a previous game between the two teams. It shows Bruins players receiving a total of 60 minutes in penalties with three of their players kicked out of the game, while the Spartans received a single two minute minor.
Langley team responds
New Western Bruins manager and coach Bob Stecher described the boycott as an overreaction.
"We are sad and disappointed," he said. It's very unfortunate for the kids, parents and coaches of both programs."
Stecher says the two clubs have played 250 games against each other across all age groups over the last number of years, but only two games involving the 2005-born age group have ever proven problematic.
"Both these teams — our boys and their boys — don't get along. And our coaches and their coaches had some altercations," he said. "It's probably best that our '05s do not play each other."
Wall says the Spartans eventually agreed to play the semi-final against the Bruins, but only after the tournament director agreed to attend and stand in between the two benches at the Canlan Ice Sports Centre in North Vancouver.
Last year, parents of the 2005 New Western Bruins were involved in a drunken brawl in the stands during a tournament in Osoyoos..
Wall said he has not heard from the New Western Bruins but has received positive feedback from other segments of the hockey community.
"I have heard 100 per cent support from inside our organization and overwhelming support from outside," he said.
Spring hockey is not governed by B.C. Hockey or Hockey Canada and there is no overarching organization policing behaviour or handing out discipline.
Issues intimidation in hockey are a hot topic lately with Sidney Crosby out of the NHL playoffs and facing serious health concerns after suffering another concussion at the hands of an opponent.
Wall says it's only by standing up for fair play that the game will ever evolve.
"I hate to say it, but, in some instances, I think [intimidation] still exists. That's why we've made this bold statement to say it shouldn't be allowed," he said.
"If we can set the next generation up to recognize it's a skill game, a fun game and a team game — and show that we don't win by intimidation and bullying — we can send a loud message."