Two Winnipeg MJHL teams are facing fines and have each lost a draft pick after they travelled outside of Winnipeg for training in early November, in violation of Hockey Manitoba's directives at the time.
Hockey Manitoba says that the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze both broke a ban on practicing in the midst of level red on the province's pandemic response system for the Winnipeg Metro Region. Both teams had private training for their players in Warren, Man., north of the city, on November 9.
The province's governing body of hockey says in a statement released on Wednesday that the teams did not violate public health orders. However, they did violate a directive given from Hockey Manitoba which stated that all teams and players in the region were "ineligible to participate in hockey programming beginning Monday, November 2, 2020." That directive specifically restricted teams and players "from travelling outside of the region to participate in hockey programming."
The two teams are owned by the same group. They will immediately pay a $5,000 fine, and the MJHL says the funds will go towards COVID-19 PPE relief for frontline workers in Manitoba. Each team will also lose their first-round draft pick in the 2021 draft.
The two teams released a statement on November 13 apologizing for their decision. They also pointed out that as Winnipeg moved into Code Red, the MJHL decided to continue with its season without the Blues, Freeze, and the Selkirk Steelers. The ownership group says it wasn't trying to get around rules, but simply trying to maintain the same level of training the other teams were still able to have.
"The bottom line is that in an unprecedented situation, with honest intentions, we made a bad choice," the ownership group says. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to change what occurred on November 9. However, moving forward, we can be a role model for our players and our community by owning our mistakes wholeheartedly, correcting course immediately, and being the best possible example for going above and beyond for the greater good for as long as this pandemic lasts and beyond."
"The group did seek guidance from Public Health prior to the practice being held on the necessary protocols required, specific for the Warren, Man., facility, to enable them to participate safely in the training session," Hockey Manitoba points out in their statement.
Hockey Manitoba is also asking for understanding from the public. They say that the training was the result of the decisions of management and ownership, and not the players and staff.
"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."