'Goons' drive ex-NHLers from Manitoba series

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:12 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The Clear Lake Jets have withdrawn from the provincial senior A hockey playdowns due to a lack of players, but its manager/coach/promoter isn’t going down without a fight.

Merv Bodnarchuk has asked the RCMP to investigate two hits in Clear Lake’s game against the Grandview Comets on Jan. 17. The Mounties in Grandview say they will look into the matter, but they aren’t sure how far they will go considering it happened on the ice.

“It’s in the hands of the law now,” Bodnarchuk said on Tuesday from his home in Onanole. “If the law of the land falls on to the law of the ice, we’re suggesting that a charge be filed.”

The Jets, featuring former NHL stars like Dale Hawerchuk, Claude Lemieux and Cliff Ronning, weren’t expecting a hard-hitting contest against Grandview in the opener of their two-game, total-goal series.

The Comets won the contest 8-6, but Hawerchuk, Lemieux and Ronning told Bodnarchuk they didn’t want to continue in the series because it was too physical. Since he didn’t have enough players to ice a team, Bodnarchuk withdrew from the tournament in an e-mail to Hockey Manitoba officials on Tuesday morning.

Bodnarchuk, however, is accusing the Comets of goon tactics and wants the RCMP to investigate a check that Grandview forward Steegan Stoski delivered on former Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mike Ford in the first period.

Bodnarchuk also wants the Mounties to look at a hit that an unidentified Comets player gave to former Winnipeg Jet Doug Smail moments after the check on Ford. In a video of the incident, it appears Smail gave an elbow to Stoski while coming to Ford’s defence.

“I’m sorry this has turned out like this, but the Grandview president and the Grandview coach can take full responsibility for this,” Bodnarchuk said. “I don’t know what they had in their minds when they feel and think that they had to run guys.

Hawerchuk told Crossroads This Week he hadn’t seen a similar style of hockey since his junior career in the 1970s.

“For the first 10 minutes it resembled a cage match,” Hawerchuk told the paper. “(The Comets) were completely out of control.”

Comets representatives were unavailable for comment on Tuesday, but they told the Sun on Monday that their players didn’t do anything different. The Comets, who lead the North Central Hockey League, said their goal is to win the provincial A title, and they were simply playing their hardest.

Hawerchuk, Ronning and Lemieux play for Bodnarchuk’s touring team (known as the Rammers) that participates non-contact games against senior teams in small Prairie towns. The Comets figure Hawerchuk and Co. didn’t know what they were getting into when they agreed to participate in the provincial playdowns.

“We aren’t playing here for the notoriety,” Hawerchuk told Crossroads. “We’re here to promote senior hockey and provide some entertainment for the fans.”

Anyone can play in the tournament as long as they aren’t registered with another senior team and, if they live out of province, complete a player-transfer form.

Bodnarchuk said he tried to recruit Gary Leeman and former NHL tough guy Wayne Van Dorp, who had 303 penalty minutes with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1989-90 season, for the Game 2 that never happened.

Former NHL tough guy Gino Odjick was also on the radar of Bodnarchuk, who was still hot about the topic on Tuesday.

“I wish that I could play them again and I was 25 years younger,” said Bodnarchuk, who is 59 years old. “We wouldn’t need a Gino Odjick.”

The Comets will meet Fisher River in the second round.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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