Friday, October 24, 2008

KIJHL Controversy

A wild story out of the KIJHL this week. The league stripped the Beaver Valley Nitehawks of 7 points for playing an in-eligible player in 4 games. Before I explain things I'll let you hear about it from the horse's mouth. I had BV GM Terry Jones and Grand Forks Coach and GM Rob Fitzpatrick on Overtime tonight to explain things.

If you don't want to listen to the audio version let me do my best to explain it. The Nitehawks recruited talented young defenseman Keon Vick from Alberta. The 18 year old made an immediate impact this season. He's got 6 points in 6 games and plays a very aggressive, physical style.

Jones told me that he was sure he had Vick carded. Sure enough to play him for 4 games without any concern. However, after those games he was informed by the league that Vick hadn't been properly carded and was not in the system. Grand Forks noticed the problem and informed the league. Jones says he was able to correct the "clerical error" within 10 minutes, but that didn't stop the KIJHL from taking action.

They stripped the Nitehawks of the 7 points they earned (2 wins over Grand Forks, 1 win over Kimberly and a shoot out loss against Summerland) and gave their opponents forfeit victories. They also suspended Jones for 3 games. Jones is fine with the suspension as he knows he made a mistake, but he told me he'd rather serve a longer suspension than to have his players punished like this.

Fitzpatrick provides the other side of the issue. He says Vick made a significant difference in the games he played. It's impossible to know what would have happened in those games if Vick hadn't played so he says the forfeits are justified. At the very least that's the current rule.

I don't blame Grand Forks for their role in this, but I have to say I find this whole situation a little baffling. I think the most interesting thing Jones said to me was when he asked what would have happened if no one noticed the carding problem for the next 30 games. Would the Nitehawks have had to forfeit every one of those games?

I can understand this kind of reaction if the player had not been allowed to play in the league. However, there are no problems with Vick playing in the league now that the paperwork was done right. We're talking about a clerical error that the Nitehawks would have fixed if they knew there was a problem. I'm not saying Jones is blameless here (and neither is he) but this punishment seems inordinately extreme. Shouldn't the league bare some of the responsibility here for not being remotely aware of what's going on with the rosters? Vick was on the boxscores, he was on the website, he was in the games... nobody was hiding him. Do you think this kind of thing would have happened in the BCHL or WHL?

In a lot of ways the KIJHL is among the top Junior B leagues. The level of play is high and player development is excellent. However, things like this frankly make them look bush league. This issue absolutely must be addressed so the same kind of thing can't happen in the future.

Beaver Valley made a mistake, but it's a mistake that should never have cost the team 7 points. 7 points that may be huge difference makers come playoff time. 7 points that could be the difference between home ice and starting on the road.

It's not right.

No comments: