A decision to intentionally lose a game to College Jeanne Sauve on Thursday has left Westwood Warriors coaches Ryan Butterfield and Jim West suspended for the rest of the high school hockey season.
The ruling was announced by Westwood principal and Winnipeg High School Hockey League president Mike Wake on Friday afternoon and came in response to the Warriors pulling their goalie with the lead late in Thursday’s game to lose to College Jeanne Sauve in a bid to have the regular-season champion Oak Park Raiders bounced from the city championship.
In a story first reported by QMI Agency Thursday night, the immediate response to the blatant move to throw the game saw the Warriors offer to forfeit their spot in the semis to face the Raiders in a tie-breaker game on Friday afternoon.
The Raiders were dominant in earning a 4-1 victory on Friday before a raucous crowd of more than 500 at the MTS Iceplex and there was a prevailing feeling that some form of justice had been served.
“A little bit,” said Raiders head coach Joel Nedecky. “The players from Westwood deserved to play the game. You don’t want to see a season end like that and we don’t want to go out like that (either). It was fair solution and it definitely feels good to win.
“Pulling maneuvers like that is not the right thing to do and the message got across to our guys for sure.”
The message got across to the Warriors players — many of whom were visibly distraught when they came off the ice on Thursday — as well.
“At the time, we were all star struck and we were all just really shocked,” Warriors forward Josh Kazuk said Friday. “It was brutal. We were embarrassed and we’re sad we had to put up with it, but it happens.”
But it shouldn’t happen and that was clear in Wake’s ruling.
However, there were several critics who thought the Warriors should have been thrown out of the tournament.
“Adults made a decision that the kids followed,” said Wake. “Why should I punish the kids for the adults’ decisions? The kids didn’t like what went down.”
That being said, Wake was proud of how the Warriors players reacted to the adversity of the situation.
“Was it emotionally draining on them? It would be on anyone,” said Wake. “It was draining on me. Imagine being 17 and having to deal with this. To be honest with you, these kids did something really good by playing this game and that’s got to be the focus from here on out.”
The silver lining for the Warriors is that they still have a shot at redemption once the provincial high school hockey championship opens later this month.
“Provincials is what we’re looking forward to and we’re looking forward to meeting these guys again and getting revenge,” said Kazuk.
Butterfield and West, who declined comment on Thursday, may face further discipline from the Winnipeg High School Hockey League disciplinary committee or by governing bodies like Hockey Manitoba.
Wake made it clear his decision to remove Butterfield and West came as Westwood’s principal and not as volunteer president of the WHSHL.
“Those guys gave up a lot of their time and unfortunately two minutes overshadowed eight months of commitment,” said Wake, who was behind the Warriors bench with former coach Dorian Miller on Friday. “I guarantee if they could do it all over again, they wouldn’t do this. There’s remorse on their part.”
Neither Butterfield or West could be reached for comment on Friday.
The WHSHL championship tournament continues on Saturday with semifinal action at the MTS Iceplex and will be followed by Monday’s championship games in all three divisions.