Feeling Horse-bitten

Horse Lake Thunder's Sasha Lakovic throws his stick during second period semi-final action against...

Horse Lake Thunder's Sasha Lakovic throws his stick during second period semi-final action against the Thunder Bay Bombers at the Allan Cup in Lloydminster, Sask., on Saturday, April 23, 2005. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

LLOYDMINSTER -- The Horse Lake Thunder were created, ostensibly, to be a positive influence on native youth and a source of pride for the entire Horse Lake band.

Didn't happen.

Rest assured there aren't many people in Lloydminster or senior hockey circles who view the Horse Lake band in a better light today than they did before the Thunder rolled into town.

"When I look at what this tournament has done and everything this city has done, I guess there's some disappointment," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, adding Theo Fleury and his teammates had a great opportunity to do something good here and it's a shame they blew it.

"The Horse Lake team could have come in here and really been the favourite team. They took somewhat of a negative approach and that's too bad.

"If you take the high road ... there was such great interest that if they would have been really positive, they would have owned this city."

NO POSITIVE MESSAGES

Fleury and the Thunder could have delivered a wealth of positive messages about native kids aspiring to better their situations, about the quality of senior hockey, about overcoming personal problems and the importance of carrying yourself with class and dignity at all times.

"Theo is a heck of a hockey player," said Nicholson, presiding over the championship final. "He can spin a lot of information."

Instead, he thrashed the NHL substance abuse program, ripped the league that made him rich, called the rest of the teams here insignificant, insulted people who work for a living, played the race card at every turn, threatened to kill some photographers and left Lloydminster looking like a bitter spoilsport.

HAD SOME ISSUES

"I'm sure they thought they had some issues, but there's ways to deal with issues," said Nicholson. "The negative approach in an atmosphere like this didn't help them as much as a positive approach would have."

As for the alleged money Horse Lake spent on its players, Nicholson admits it's hard to prove, but says it's something that needs to be addressed.

"Some of those payments that we're hearing about, we don't know if they're true. There's certainly a lot of hearsay about that. It's going to be something the senior (hockey) council will look at first. We want to make sure there's an even playing field.

"I'm certainly not going to sit here and say I agree with everything that's happened up there. You certainly don't want teams to be spending a lot of money in one year and folding the franchises the next year because they've spent so much.

"They key to senior hockey in this country is to make sure that it's community based. If you're community based, you also have to talk about values and having the right values for the game."


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