Hockey fight over new league heading to court
Published Friday, November 9, 2018 6:51PM CST
A fight has broken out in the junior hockey ranks. But it's not being fought on the ice – it's being settled in the courts.
Five Manitoba First Nations are suing the members of a new league that began this year in Southern Manitoba.
"Nobody is particularly happy or thrilled to be involved in litigation relating to junior b hockey," said Jamie Kagan, the lawyer representing the First Nations.
"It is done by these teams, and these First Nations as a last resort."
Last year the KJHL included teams from First Nation communities Peguis First Nation, Norway House Cree Nation, Cross Lake First Nation, Opaskwayak Cree Nation and Fisher River Cree Nation. And there were teams from southern communities, such as Winnipeg, Selkirk, Lundar, St. Malo and Arborg.
According to a lawsuit filed by the First Nations, in May of 2018, the southern teams broke away from the KJHL, and formed the Central Region Junior Hockey League – a league that excludes them.
"How the two leagues are structured now, you have a First Nation based, all the teams are First Nation," said Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson. "And in the Capital Region League, they're all white communities. And that's something we need to address."
But the parent of one southern player tells CTV News they never heard anyone say they didn't want to play against First Nations teams.
Instead the parent says in their mind, the split is more about travel, saying some players with jobs found it difficult to get time off work to travel to the northern communities. Former KJHL goalie Travis Ridgen agrees, saying some players didn't want to make the long trips.
"Guys got to go to school, guys got to work, and some guys they don't want to come. They don't want to spend all that time. They'd rather focus on school or work. And that's totally fair."
The lawsuit claims the new CRJHL failed to follow the terms set up in the KJHL's constitution, which would require written notice of withdrawal from the league at least 30 days prior to that year’s annual general meeting. The lawsuit asks the court for a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from operating the Capital Region Junior Hockey League and any of the teams playing in it.
CTV News attempted to contact representatives from the CRJHL and has not heard back from them. Hockey Manitoba, which is also named in the lawsuit, told CTV that it would not be able to comment as the case is currently before the courts.
None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have been tested in court.