After 28 players contract flu just before faceoff, team appeals championship loss

Cameron Smith

Some two dozen teenaged hockey players became violently ill at a tournament in suburban Detroit on Sunday because of a suspected outbreak of Norovirus (the flu). Now the team that lost a championship matchup that could have sent it to the national championships in April is appealing its loss, claiming that the sudden sickness that befell its squad led to an overtime defeat.

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, MyFoxDetroit and a handful of other Michigan sources, the outbreak of suspected Norovirus struck during the final day of a weekend tournament featuring 31 different Michigan Amateur Hockey Association squads at the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Michigan. The winner of each age bracket earned a berth in their classification's national championships to be played in Buffalo, N.Y. in April.

Just before the Midget Major U-18 championship game between Victory Honda and Little Caesars, members of the Victory Honda squad became seriously ill. According to the Free Press, a number of the team's players were violently sick, vomiting just moments before they were scheduled to take the ice, and were forced to sit out the game. Other team members played the contest sick themselves.

In all, some 28 players and a few parents became sick with what is suspected to be a sudden outbreak of the flu. Many were hospitalized, while it is believed that still others who were at the complex on Sunday may have become ill but have not been included in official counts of the onset of the flu.

Despite the shortage of healthy players, Victory Honda forced the game to overtime before capitulating in a tight, 5-4 loss. Now, those connected with the program are lobbying to get the team a championship rematch.

"This is a circumstance out of the ordinary," John Stansik, director for the Victory Honda hockey club, told the Free Press. "It wasn't fair yesterday for anybody to play. It's not about a trophy. It's about attending a national championship."

The Little Caesars program has openly welcomed a rematch, despite having already been given championship trophies for winning the title game on site after two of its own players fell ill just before opening face off.

"It's unfortunate that they lost so many of their players. I feel bad for them, but that's hockey. You've got to play with what you have." Little Caesars coach and director Bill Ciraulo told the Free Press, who also voiced an opinion that if the final match between Victory Honda and Little Caesars needed to be replayed, all of the Sunday matches should be replayed as a matter of fairness.

Despite the willingness of both squads to stage a repeat performance (albeit with caveats in the case of Little Caesars), MAHA officials said there were no current plans to play the game again, despite the fact that two other championship games from the event which were abandoned because of the Sportsplex's sudden evacuation are scheduled to be replayed.

That has left an ongoing appeal to USA Hockey, the national sanctioning body, as a final reprieve for Victory Honda's hopes for a national tournament appearance.

"If they had any morals, they would let us do it," Victory Honda center Drew Best, who scored a game-tying goal while playing with the flu, told the Free Press. "But they probably won't because [Little Caesars] already won it and they handed out the medals."

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