Just a few days after getting caught red-handed by skating around the rules while all hockey is banned due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze admitted they made an error in judgment.
The two clubs issued a lengthy statement on Friday, saying they were mistaken to proceed with unsanctioned hockey activity.
In the statement, the Freeze and Blues confirmed earlier reports that they practiced at the Sunova Arena in Warren on Monday. That came after all hockey was halted in the Winnipeg region due to the pandemic.
Hockey Manitoba issued a decree that teams in the Winnipeg region couldn’t leave to take part in hockey activities.
The two clubs tried to justify their actions.
“To the best of our knowledge, including confirming with a public health inspector in advance of November 9th, we did not breach any Manitoba public health order,” the statement read.
“Still, considering the circumstances in Manitoba, we are sorry for our decision to proceed with any unsanctioned hockey activity. In hindsight, it was an error in judgment that will not be repeated. Our intention has always been and remains to support the community generally and the hockey community in particular, most especially our players and their families.”
According to the statement, the practices were not run by the club, but by a private company that carries their own insurance. So they believed no approval was necessary for private, unsanctioned practices.
“In hindsight, we were mistaken,” the statement said. “However, our misunderstanding as to whether privately run, unsanctioned training for the Blues and Freeze was in violation of the Hockey Manitoba directive despite the conversations around providing the training with the relevant parties does show there was ambiguity in this situation and that there was no intent to hide or deceive in our decision making process.
“However, with deep reflection it is clear to us that we did not find the correct balance in our decision making on this occasion. We were wrong in directing the players to the Laker Academy programming without a clear approval from Hockey Manitoba and wrong for not taking an even broader interpretation of the public health order than what was strictly enforceable.
“The bottom line is that in an unprecedented situation, with honest intentions, we made a bad choice.”
Neither Winnipeg Blues president Matt Cockell or Winnipeg Freeze governor Jake Heisinger could be reached for comment.
The MJHL announced on Thursday they had shut down all hockey activities until at least January.