Supreme court petition challenges how some minor hockey suspensions are handed out in B.C.

A petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court is challenging the authority of B.C. Hockey to suspend players. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images - image credit)
A petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court is challenging the authority of B.C. Hockey to suspend players. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images - image credit)

A petition filed in British Columbia Supreme Court is asking a judge to declare that B.C. Hockey does not have the authority to attach automatic suspensions to penalties.

It also says B.C. Hockey, the body that runs amateur hockey in the province, is not abiding by its own bylaws in denying players who have received mandated minimum suspensions the chance to appeal.

The petitioner is the family of a 16-year-old boy who plays recreation-level hockey with the Prince George Minor Hockey Association in the under-18 age group.

In a game last month, the boy made a gloved middle finger gesture after a player on the opposing team had called him a "fat f--k'n r-----d," according to court documents.

An on-ice official immediately handed the boy a gross misconduct penalty for the gesture. He was also suspended for five games — one game for receiving the gross misconduct in the final 10 minutes of the game, as per Hockey Canada rules, and four games under B.C. Hockey's "minimum suspension guidelines," which kick in automatically on certain calls and do not allow for appeals.

The petition claims that the minimum suspensions are not a penalty assessed under Hockey Canada playing rules but rather a "governance decision" by B.C. Hockey.

It goes on to say that because B.C. Hockey is a society under the B.C. Societies Act, the organization must follow its own stated policies on suspensions, which include the right to a hearing and the right of appeal.

B.C. Hockey has not filed a response to the petition, and the claims have not been tested in court.

According to the CEO of B.C. Hockey, minimum suspension guidelines were a suggestion of Hockey Canada that have been adopted, in some form, by every provincial minor hockey organization in the country.

"That's for certain types of actions where we want to make sure that we send a strong message that [those actions] are not part of our game. That includes making obscene gestures," said Cameron Hope.

"You can agree or disagree with whether someone should sit out three games or four games or five games ... but that's all water under the bridge from our point of view. That's been decided."

With 600,000 members provincewide, Hope said adding a hearing and appeals process to minimum suspensions would cause "mayhem" in the hockey system.

"In our way of thinking, [minimum suspensions] are a reasonable and efficient and fair way to deal with these things," said Hope.