The Manitoba Junior Hockey League and officials with one of its teams are refusing to talk about reports that players were forced to walk naked around their locker room with water bottles tied to their genitals as part of a hazing ritual.
Earlier this week, the Neepawa Natives junior hockey team was fined $5,000 and some of its coaches and players were suspended for the incident, but the league refused to reveal details about what went on.
On Wednesday, media reports surfaced saying the ritual involved water bottles being tied to the players' scrotums and towels being thrown on the bottles to add weight.
Manitoba Junior Hockey League commissioner Kim Davis would not confirm the reports.
“I'm not going to provide that information,” Davis said. “I don't think it's useful or necessary.”
Head coach Bryant Perrier also declined to speak about the reports.
“The league's done the investigation, the people have been interviewed, the players have been interviewed, everything's been done,” he said. “They did an investigation. You want to do a second investigation? This isn't the O.J. Simpson trial.”
The league suspended Perrier for two games, not because he took part, but because it was his responsibility to know what was happening.
“I know you want news, but people got to be careful here, because there's lawyers being hired right in the process, so if something gets said that's not correct, we're just telling people, like, there's going to be legalities in place,” he said.
“If people want to dig around, they've got to be careful because if people start digging too much and they start making up false accusations, then it's defamation of character.”
An assistant coach was suspended for five games along with the team's captain, while 15 other players were suspended for between one and three games.
The team may get some of the $5,000 back if it avails itself of help to understand and deal with the psychological impact of hazing, the league said.
Team president Dave McIntosh said the players on the team have already had one meeting with a local reverend and one meeting with a counsellor to discuss the issue.
“All of the leagues in Canada have to do a better job of providing all of these hockey players with the information required to know what hazing is and what it isn't, and where pranks become bullying and bullying becomes intimidation, and intimidation is hazing,” he said. “I guess there's just a little better job on our part that all of us have to do.”
There are 11 teams in the MJHL, two in Winnipeg and the rest in smaller towns and cities throughout the province.