Citing ‘truculence and dangerous play’ and differing philosophies when it comes to player development, the BC Spartans are refusing to take the ice for any future games against the New Western Bruins.
The announcement was made on Sunday (April 30) following a game between the two spring hockey programs the day before, which was won 5-1 by the Spartans.
The Bruins are a Fraser Valley program based out of Langley with players from Langley, Aldergrove, Cloverdale and Abbotsford, while the Spartans are run out of the North Shore and Burnaby.
“We just don’t share the same philosophy on how you should be dealing with kids,” said James Wall, the Spartans director of hockey operations, on Tuesday.
“I think (the Bruins) just have a different approach on their philosophy and how they want to develop their players (and) I really am just trying to send a message that we don’t agree with how they run their program.”
While minor hockey is regulated by BC Hockey, spring hockey is operated as a business and does not have a governing body.
“Our past encounters with the 2005 Bruins have seen truculent and dangerous play, Bruins coaches ejected (twice) and verbal and physical threats by Bruins parents against Spartans parents and coaches,” the Spartans wrote in the statement.
The statement also includes a summary of penalty minutes from the game which show three ejections for Bruins players and another 30 minutes in minor penalties.
— BC Spartans (@BCSpartans) April 30, 2017
“(Our program) prides itself on its commitment to excellence, sportsmanship and fair play (and) our teams seek to compete against organizations with similar values,” the statement says.
Wall said the situation has been developing over the past few years and it has got to the point where the Spartans players and their families no longer wanted to take to the ice for games versus the Bruins.
“Our guys weren’t having fun playing against the Bruins anymore, and I just thought it was best if we went our separate ways,” he said.
“In my program, if I had a coach who was acting the way one of their coaches was acting, I would just remove them. But in this situation, the reason we are doing this is not because it is a rogue coach, it is the program, it is coming from the top down and this is why we are doing this.”
Bob Stecher, the director of the Bruins spring hockey program and coach of the team in question, defended both his team and program.
“There are three sides to every story: their version, our version and then probably the truth somewhere in the middle,” Stecher said on Wednesday morning.
Stecher countered that no concerns were raised when Wall contacted him prior to the season’s start in scheduling games for all of both programs’ respective teams.
The Bruins have 10 teams, with the eldest being their 2004-born players and the youngest at the 2009 age group.
He acknowleged there was some tension during the first game of the season between the 2005-born teams. That is one of the squads Stecher coaches.
In that game, the Bruins had a steady stream of players to the penalty box and Stecher was ejected for arguing with the referee, who he felt was being influenced by the Spartans coaches to make calls.
The Bruins are focused on getting their players ready for the next level and the coaches teach the players how to angle their check to keep them to the outside. Hitting is not allowed at this age level and Stecher explained this technique will help the players get ready for when hitting is introduced at the bantam level.
Stecher said the rules call for an automatic game ejection after a player is whistled for their third minor penalty, and that helped skew the penalty minutes upwards.
“We feel we have been given an unfair rap because of this incident,” he said. “Our boys took penalties, yes, (but) 30 minutes was tacked on because of the game ejections.
“Our kids are not dirty, whatsoever.”
While Wall said he has received calls and emails in support of his actions, Stecher said he has yet to hear from any other teams not wanting to face the Bruins.
“There has never been an issue (before),” he said, adding that all of this likely stems from the fact the two coaching staffs do not get along.
“It is grown-ups yelling at each other and all four of us should have been more responsible.”