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Blues, Freeze punished for violating Public Health rules


The Manitoba Junior Hockey League and Hockey Manitoba conducted a review of the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze organizations participating in a private training session outside of the Winnipeg Metro Region which occurred in Warren, Nov. 9.
The ownership and management group of the Blues and Freeze made an independent decision to operate privately outside of the Hockey Manitoba restrictions, without the necessary approval, by directing players and staff to travel outside of the Winnipeg Metro Region, which was under the Provincial Response Level: Critical - Red, to participate in a practice.
This decision has been recognized by the ownership and management group of both teams as wrong, that it was made in poor judgement in relation to the difficult situation within the province and that a regretful choice was made, albeit with good intentions during very difficult and unprecedented times, in which they have publicly acknowledged and apologized for while fully cooperating throughout the review process.
It should be noted, no evidence was found that the teams were in violation of the Public Health Orders as written at that time. The group did seek guidance from Public Health prior to the practice being held on the necessary protocols required, specific for the Warren facility, to enable them to participate safely in the training session.
However, the decision to direct players and staff to travel outside of the Winnipeg Metro Region to participate in private hockey programming was in violation of the Hockey Manitoba Directive announced and effective Nov. 2.
This decision in the end resulted in conduct taking place that was detrimental to the MJHL and Hockey Manitoba. The MJHL and Hockey Manitoba have the authority to implement penalties as a result.
After a review of the situation, involving the Blues and the Freeze, the following penalties have been assessed:
A $5,000 fine to be paid immediately and in full by the ownership group of the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze to the MJHL. The payment will go towards COVID-19 PPE relief for frontline workers across the province.
Each organization will forfeit their first round draft pick in the upcoming 2021 MJHL Draft.
Each organization will be required to complete a community initiative this season as approved by the MJHL and Hockey Manitoba.
As a rule, disclosing internal disciplinary matters of this nature is not made publicly as it would not be in the public interest to do so. However, in this situation, it has become public and both organizations involved have apologized and have taken ownership for their decision publicly.
The above are severe penalties for an organization participating in a single, non-sanctioned private training session.
It is important to note that the above penalties are a result of the decision of the ownership and management group and not that of the players or staff of each organization. Their participation does not merit any sanctions as a result of this unique, unprecedented and difficult set of circumstances.
It is also imperative that the Blues and Freeze organizations including players, staff, families and supporters should not be further stigmatized due to this decision. These young athletes have seen how unforgiving individuals can be.
Moving forward, the apology has been accepted by the MJHL and Hockey Manitoba with the expectation that each organization has learned from this disappointing mistake and will continue to be positive role models, ambassadors and leaders within their communities, as has been shown repeatedly leading up to this situation.
The MJHL Board of Governors and Hockey Manitoba, albeit disappointed in this decision, continue to support the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze organizations as valued and positive members. This situation has been very difficult for all those that have been involved and should be considered as a strong lesson learned by everyone.

Staff Writer