A 12-year-old hockey player and his parents are shaken up after he suffered a broken wrist when he was taken down hard to the ice by a referee attempting to break up a fight.
Kainen Bell was hurt in the dying minutes of a semifinal game between peewee teams from the Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation and the Sagkeeng First Nation as part of the Southeast Winter Tribal Days annual hockey tournament in Winnipeg on Sunday.
“When I hit the ground it went dark for two seconds, then I rolled to the side and a kid on my team pulled me out of the game,” Kainen said Monday in an interview with Global Winnipeg at his home on Sagkeeng First Nation, his left arm in a sling.
“I don’t think it’s right.”
Sagkeeng coach Stepahnie Tardiff said Brokenhead was on its way to a 4-0 victory when a fracas started around the Sagkeeng net.
As the referees pulled the kids apart, Tardiff says a Brokenhead player skated in front of the Sagkeeng bench and taunted the players.
A video from the stands posted to YouTube showed a tense scene, with a parent screaming “get your hands off my kids,” from the stands as officials broke up the kids in front of the net.
Kainen, in a white jersey, appears to slash the Brokenhead player in front of the bench and the two began punching each other.
That’s when one of the referees appeared to grab Kainen from behind and take him down to the ice, falling on top of him.
“He should have easily been able to separate the two of them,” Tardiff said. “Instead of separating them properly, he grabbed my player with both hands and threw him on the ice.
“That ref should have never put two hands on one player. He should have put one hand on one player, one hand on the other player and separated them properly.”
Robert Bell took his own video of what happened to his son, and he says it shows the referee grabbing Kainen “by the back of the armpits and twirling, pivoting, slamming him on the ice,” he told CTV Winnipeg.
As the player and the referee fell to the ice, another player slammed his stick on the referee’s head, the crowd erupted in a rage and an adult jumped off the bench to tussle with the referee. The referee managed to break free of the scuffle and slammed his helmet down as he left the ice to a shower of expletives from the fans.
Tardiff said the altercation continued between parents, coaches and the official off the ice, but she didn’t see what happened as she was busy getting her players into the dressing room.
The Brokenhead coach said none of this should have happened at a peewee game.
“I thought that both refs that (refereed) the second game were definitely in control. They did a great job,” Allen Hocaluk told CTV Winnipeg.
Police were called and are investigating. No charges have been laid.
“My understanding is this game included a lot of rough play,” said Winnipeg police Const. Jason Michalyshen.
“Officials were required to make a lot of different calls with respect to the conduct of players. It does appear emotions were running very high.”
Tardiff said there was a history between the unidentified official and her team. She said the same referee called 18 penalties against her team earlier in the tournament and he had thrown her out of a game on Saturday for telling him to stop swearing at her players.
She said the referee threw her fellow coach out of Sunday’s game before it even began, citing a water-bottle-throwing incident from earlier in the tournament.
“He already didn’t like us from the beginning,” she said.
Todd Thornton, president of the community centre where the game was played, said the tournament wasn’t played under the auspices of Hockey Winnipeg or Hockey Manitoba.
Thornton called the incident unfortunate.
Tardiff said she hopes the official is not allowed to referee again.
“As a coach and a parent, I put my kids on the ice expecting that they are going to be in safe hands and be reffed a clean, fair, even game, not be harmed by a ref.”