An unprecedented move by a Saskatchewan senior hockey team to forfeit a playoff game due to the safety of their players.
The Theodore Buffalos senior hockey team forfeited the fourth and deciding game of their Triangle Hockey League (THL) playoff series against the Ochapowace Thunder.
A statement of the forfeiture came in a tweet issued the afternoon of Mar. 7. The automatic 1-0 loss gave Ochapowace a three wins to one in the best-of-five games series.
Due to final minutes of last nights hockey game The Theodore Buffalos are cancelling the game tonight in Theodore and forfeiting the series in order to maintain and protect our players safety. #saskseniorhockey @hockey_leagues @TriangleHL
— Theodore & District Recreation Board (@TheodoreDRB) March 7, 2020
When reached for comment, Buffalos General Manager, Adam Stuart, stated, “what’s done was done,” but declined further comment.
The Buffalos live streamed game three on their Facebook page. A play in-front of the net late in the game led to Thunder goaltender, Dustin Bear, being injured. He was favouring his lower body. Later in the game, a Buffalos defenseman circled the net and a Thunder forechecker made a large hit causing the Buffalos player’s helmet to come off. The player was injured. There was no penalty on either play.
At the end of game two in Theodore, an Ochapowace player was issued a three-game suspension after, “he made an action with his hockey stick that made it appear that he was shooting the fans. Like a rifle, with his hockey stick,” said THL executive member, Mike Stackhouse, who recalled the referee’s report of the penalty.
A statement was requested from the Ochapowace Thunder but was not fulfilled by deadline.
Stackhouse called out the Saskatchewan Hockey Association (SHA) and its dealings with the Thunder after multiple situations – including the entire league’s executive to resign last month – over the last couple seasons, finally caused a team to not play.
“[The SHA has] a handbook of rules that they follow. The [THL] has a constitution that it follows. In the event of a dispute of the constitution of the [THL] – say there’s a suspension and the [THL] wants that suspension to have [peace] and be a strong deterrent – there is an avenue of appeal for a team that disagrees that. It then becomes an SHA decision. And, in the event that SHA would agree with the team or person appealing, you tend to look very bad as a league.”
SHA General Manager, Kelly McClintock, responded saying, “it’s up to the league and its members to take control the league … they don’t have to come to Saskatchewan Hockey for that. But, if you don’t want the team in the league because you can’t get referees to go there, teams don’t want to go play there and they’re shorthanded when they go, then maybe you have to look at your membership and say, should you be in the league or not? And they have the right to be able to expel a team.”
Generally, the Triangle Hockey League uses referees from Yorkton to officiate its games. However, past situations have caused Referee in Chief, Gary Gawryliuk, to use officials from elsewhere for games in Ochapowace, especially in playoffs.
“As for the Yorkton officials,” said Garwryliuk, “it was in the best interest of the game to bring in officials from different centres to ref those games … it just makes sense to throw in a neutral crew of officials in there that are not aware of anything that’s going on with teams, regardless of who they play.”
The Triangle Hockey League final is set to slate the Bredenbury Cougars vs Ochapowace. The dates for games have not yet been set.