WMHA defends investigation into reinstated hockey coach Stanley Norris

A suspended Windsor Minor Hockey Association coach has been reinstated after a tumultuous process upended the association's board.

Stanley Norris, an assistant coach with WMHA, was suspended pending an investigation by the Ontario Minor Hockey Association after media reports revealed Norris had outstanding warrants in Michigan and a felony conviction in Florida. 

"The kids want to get back to playing hockey," said Norris, confirming he was cleared to coach again by OMHA but declining to comment further. 

Norris was behind the bench during Thursday night's game between the Windsor Junior Spitfires and the Tecumseh-Shoreline Eagles.

WMHA interim president Josh Pinese said the OMHA notified the local hockey association with a letter stating Norris was reinstated effective immediately as a coach with Windsor Minor or with any other OMHA-sanctioned league. 

"The Ontario Minor Hockey Association formally reviewed the circumstances surrounding this person's eligibility to continue as a team official for the Windsor Minor Hockey Association," said OMHA in a statement. 

"Based on all facts, the OMHA criminal record check policy, along with the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada guidelines, allow him to serve with the WMHA and all member associations of the OMHA going forward." 

 Pinese said the board respects the authority of the OMHA.

"There was a process that had to be followed and we followed it," said Pinese. "We did our due diligence and referred the case to the proper people and they handled it. At this point we have to respect the decision."

Katerina Georgieva/CBC

Pinese said the organization is about organizing "safe hockey" and that any future concerns from parents about Norris, or any other coach, will be sent to the right people.

Almost half of the board members of the WMHA resigned or were removed from their positions this November, following media reports that some leaders of the organization had already known about Norris's criminal history in the U.S. before his record became public.

Since then, the WMHA board has voted for changes to how it operates, including allowing parents to vote for board members and term limits for those who serve

The OMHA is not changing any of its policies.

"The Ontario Minor Hockey Association Code of Conduct and Criminal Record Check policy has always been detailed and will remain in place as it stands today," said OMHA in a statement.

Former WMHA president Dean Lapierre, who was among a group who resigned from the organization's board earlier this year, published a Facebook post on Friday to share his thoughts on the reinstatement of Norris.

Jason Viau/CBC

Lapierre criticized Pinese for his involvement in the resignation or removal of members of the board. Lapierre also expressed support for Norris, adding that "this issue is not over by any means."

"Josh Pinese, the ring leader, is now in charge of the WMHA and said in a recent article that the new board wants to bring transparency to the WMHA," wrote Lapierre. "Transparency will be all over the place in the future. Trust me."