Canadian coach suspended one year, fined for allowing players to skip opening, closing ceremonies

In one of the more bizarre and over-the-top moves in recent memory, a junior hockey coach in Canada has been banned for coaching his team for a full year because he allowed his players to skip the opening and closing ceremonies of a tournament so they could study for exams.

The incident occurred in Newfoundland, where Brian Cranford served as the coach of the Mount Pearl Junior Blades. As reported by CBC and the Cape Breton Post — and brought to Prep Rally's attention by Deadspin and Puck Daddy's Sean Newell — Cranford and his team competed in April's Don Johnson memorial tournament, but the coach could only convince his players to compete if they were allowed to skip the opening and closing ceremonies for the event to study for their forthcoming final exams.

"These are junior kids, they're 18, 19, 20 years old," Cranford told CBC. "Because of our schedule, we had real issues trying to get a team iced for every game."

Cranford agreed to let the team miss the opening and closing speeches and notified all of the officials at the event. Roughly a month later, the coach was notified by the organizing committee of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador that his decision was unacceptable, and that he would be assessed a year-long ban from coaching and a $2,000 penalty for the Junior Blades skipping the tournament's opening and closing ceremonies.

According to CBC, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey president Jack Lee said the decision was made strictly on the bottom line: The regulations for the tournament stipulated that teams were required to take part from start to finish. Clearly, the organization's interpretation of "start" was quite literal.

For his part, Cranford continues to be baffled that he could be punished so severely for something that clearly seems to make common sense. The volunteer coach appealed his ban and fine but swiftly had that claim denied. He has since appealed that decision to Hockey Canada, the nation's governing body for the entire sport.

Whether or not that appeal is successful, the rather strict decision by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador will certainly give future teams pause before they commit to taking part in a tournament. In fact, they might even cause some to pause over whether they want to be involved with such a group whatsoever.

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