(RCMP officers intervened at a hockey game in Thompson, Man., Sunday.)
APTN National News
THOMPSON, Man.–A player with the Thompson King Miners is disputing claims a fracas that forced the premature end to a hockey game and intervention by local Thompson, Man., RCMP on Sunday was triggered by racism.
Lucas Hanlon, 17, plays right wing for the Midget AA Thompson, Man., hockey team which played back to back games against a team from Norway House, Man., this past weekend. The RCMP was called to the second game on Sunday after a melee broke out in the stands.
A player for the Norway House Northstars team and two parents told APTN National News Tuesday morning that some Thompson fans hurled racial epithets at the Norway House team. They also said one player was confronted by three Thompson fans, two men and a woman, who used racial slurs. They also claimed one Norway House player had his helmet cracked by a slash to the head.
Hanlon, however, is disputing those claims. He said things came to boil in the arena after some confusion surfaced following a penalty shot when parents and fans from Norway House began yelling at the referee which drew in the Thompson side who started yelling back.
“They had been yelling at the refs from what I could see,” said Hanlon. “Then the Thompson parents began yelling at them for yelling at the ref.”
Hanlon said things began to escalate following a couple of scrums at the Norway House net as the Thompson team began to pull ahead 3-2 in the second period. They were trailing 2-1 after the first period. Hanlon said he was cross-checked in the facemask by a Norway House player who was ejected and given a five minute major.
With a Norway House player in the penalty box in place of the ejected player, the referees called a penalty shot after a Thompson player was hacked down during a rush, said Hanlon. The Thompson player scored on the penalty shot, but the Norway House side expected the player in the box to be let out.
“That’s not the case because the penalty shot is a penalty in and of itself,” said Hanlon, who also referees minor hockey. “That is when things flew out of hand.”
Hanlon claims that the ejected Norway House player then went into the Thompson side of the stands, a crowd gathered and a punch may have been thrown. By this time officials called the RCMP and the game ended.
Hanlon said the RCMP escorted both teams separately out of the arena. The police also seized video of the game from a Shaw TV producer.
“19 years of broadcasting hockey games, I have never had my footage become ‘exhibit c’ in the court of law,” tweeted producer Paul Andersen. “#norwayhousevsthompson.”
Hanlon said overheated play on the ice spread to the stands causing the situation to get out of control.
“It was messy. I just disagree with the comments of prejudice. I am a Metis player myself. We have a lot of Aboriginal players on our team,” said Hanlon. “We have just as many people with Aboriginal roots in our community as anywhere else.”
Hanlon said he didn’t hear any racial taunts hurled at the Norway House players. He said the Norway House fans called him “white trash.” He said racial slurs are hurled by both sides during games.
“You get kind of used it from playing against those teams for so long. It happens both ways. I personally don’t because I come from both backgrounds,” he said.
Hanlon said he didn’t see anyone get slashed in the head with enough force to crack a helmet.
Hanlon said many in the Thompson hockey community are now worried the planned Rogers Hometown Hockey tour stop scheduled for the community on March 7 and 8 may be scuttled because of the bad press stemming from the weekend’s incident.
“There is a lot of talk that they may pull out now because of what was going on with comments made by APTN,” he said. “It doesn’t seem fair to lose something like that over a conflict that happened between us with another team that went both ways. Both teams were giving it to each other…I know most of our players couldn’t say anything about Aboriginals because they are Aboriginal.”
APTN could not on Tuesday evening reach Norway House’s coach, the parents or the player who initially made the allegations.
APTN could not reach the head coach of the Thompson King Miners Tuesday evening. The head coach was out of town during the weekend game which was handled by two assistants.
NorMan hockey league officials did not return a request for comment.