Knights GM rejects allegations of neglected schooling

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The London Knights' handling of education for their players should be given a failing grade, a radio documentary on the CBC's The Inside Track suggests.

The half-hour weekly sports show hosted by Robin Brown runs nationally each Sunday. Yesterday, the topic was on junior hockey's education policies and it focused on the Knights.

"Today, junior hockey and education. An Inside Track investigation gives the London Knights a failing grade," Brown said.

"Teenage hockey players missing classes. Others who aren't in school at all. The league has an education policy but is it worth the paper it's written on? We'll hear from OHL commissioner David Branch."

The program focused on last year's Memorial Cup- winning Knights. It used comments by former player Corey Perry that indicated most Knights did not attend school last year.

The Inside Track: "When Corey Perry says hockey's his life, he's not kidding. In his last season of junior, Perry didn't go to school and he didn't take any correspondence courses. Perry says he wasn't alone."

Perry said: "They had 13 guys, 14 guys who did what I did. They didn't do too much, they just focused solely on hockey."

The program quoted a source close to the team about its "chronic absenteeism." Inside Track said leaked school board documents indicated absences in one semester of 25, 30 and "a whopping 37 days."

Knights general manager Mark Hunter said the CBC should have done its homework. Hunter is livid about the accusations. "They'd better be ready to show me the documents because it's not true. We didn't have anyone miss 37 days."

Hunter said circumstances last year may have caused some players to miss more school than he would have liked. It was a Memorial Cup year, several better players spent extended time in professional training camp, competing in all-star games and tournaments and participating in tryout camps, he said.

But the major line of defence from the Knights and the OHL is that last year's team was an older team with many players already out of high school.

"The bottom line, they all graduated with their Grade 12 diploma," he said. "We want them to go to school after that but you can't force kids to go to university or college."

Hunter said there were only eight players who did not attend school last year, not the 13 or 14 Perry told the CBC.

Rob Waugh, education consultant for the Knights and teacher at Saunders secondary school, said the players are monitored with reports to the league and team.

Waugh said this year 10 players are at Saunders, two at St. Thomas Aquinas, three at Western and six more will enrol at King's University College in January.

Hunter said if players miss school they sit out. It's happened once in five years and one of the current Knights has been warned if he continues to miss classes he'll miss games.

Donna Rawbone is education consultant for the Guelph Storm. She said on the radio show she's "shocked" by the information obtained by Inside Track. She said she has examined the leaked documents.

"A student can't be successful when he misses 37 classes unless they are getting a tutor on the side," said Rawbone, who is also a high school teacher. "If we had a student who wasn't an athlete and they missed 30 days, they would be seriously looked at and asked to drop the course."

Trevor Whiffen, the Knights governor, was upset with Rawbone.

"Maybe she should focus on her own team's problems," Whiffen said. "She says she's shocked. I'm shocked she would comment on leaked confidential documents."

The OHL policy says all players should attend some form of school.

On the show, Branch was asked if he was concerned about the Knights' high level of absenteeism.

"All we've got from London is from the principal of the school commending and supporting the work and efforts of the players in the school. We never had any confidential reports leaked to us to suggest otherwise," Branch said.


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