Officials with two Ontario minor hockey teams locked in an intense playoff series are downplaying an incident that the provincial police described as a “brawl” involving more than two dozen parents.
The incident occurred Sunday during a game between the peewee teams from Simcoe and Paris. Ontario Provincial Police in Norfolk County said they were called to the Talbot Gardens arena in Simcoe by a resident reporting a fight.
What had started as a verbal altercation turned into a “brawl” involving as many as 30 parents, police said in a news release, adding that the crowd had dispersed by the time officers arrived.
But Marty Jefferson, president of Simcoe Minor Hockey Association, insisted the incident was not a brawl, just a shouting match that started in the stands and carried over into the arena lobby.
“There was no physicality,” said Jefferson, who did not attend the game. “There was no fight. There was no brawl. Nothing like that has been reported by anybody that was there.”
There were about 30 people in the lobby at the time, but the incident may have involved only about eight parents, he said.
Patrick Graham, president of the Paris Minor Hockey Association, said he had also been told that the parents did not engage in physical confrontation.
“No pushing, no punches,” he said. “Everybody seems to be very confused as to where that detail’s coming from.”
But Graham acknowledged the rivalry between the two teams.
“It’s been very tense from all reports,” he said. “I think it’s something that maybe snowballed on some people. Emotions got the best of them.”
The Simcoe Minor Hockey Association has reached out to parents to remind them they must abide by a code of conduct at all games, Jefferson said.
“We don’t tolerate any verbal abuse, physical abuse or anything like that like,” he said. “We expect (people) to respect each other both on the ice and in the crowd.”
The two teams will play each other again Saturday in the fifth, and deciding game, of the playoff series.
“It was a heat of the moment incident,” Jefferson said. “The attention that this has got, I’m sure we probably on both sides have a couple of embarrassed parents right now.”
The head of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association said it was aware of the incident and was co-operating with the provincial police.
“The OMHA is committed to providing a safe, respectful, and fully inclusive environment for players, parents/guardians, staff, officials and volunteers, in which all individuals are treated with respect,” executive director Ian Taylor said in a statement.