Canadian hockey team delays school suspension of players just to keep playoff eligibility

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A Canadian high school hockey team is being accused of receiving unfairly favorable treatment after five teenagers were suspended from school for a day for a sexually suggestive dance in a school talent contest but three still competed in their scheduled hockey game on the day when they were suspended.

Ecole Secondaire Nepisiguit hockey players perform in the school's talent show — CBC video
Ecole Secondaire Nepisiguit hockey players perform in the school's talent show — CBC video

As first reported by CBC, five members of the Bathurst (New Brunswick) Ecole Secondaire Nepisiguit hockey team were suspended for performing a sexually suggestive dance at a school talent show. According to the national broadcaster, the five boys performed a dance throughout a song, then ripped off their pants and danced provocatively (think pelvic thrusts) at the end of the performance.

While legitimate questions could be raised about whether that dance truly is a suspendable offense, Nepisiguit officials deemed it was, citing it's failure to conform with "our school values," and suspended all five boys for one school day.

As it happened, that one day suspension was set to coincide with a varsity hockey game. If all five players had missed the game -- as is standard for any time a full-day suspension falls on the day of an extracurricular event -- the school would not have had enough players to field a full team. That in turn would have resulted in a forfeit, which then would have ruled Nepisiguit ineligible for the playoffs based on regulations that don't allow for teams who forfeit games to take part in the postseason.

Facing that dilemma, school officials delayed the punishment for three of the five players, making them eligible for that night's hockey game and preserving the program's playoff eligibility as a result. Even better for Nepisiguit fans, the team won the Friday night matchup, 5-1.

Usually such a reversal of fortune happens as a result of significant lobbying efforts from a team's coach or, possibly, a school's fan base or athletic department. Intriguingly, that wasn't the case at Nepisiguit, where the decision to delay punishment for three players appears to have come directly from the principal himself.

"We think what was given was fair for what was done," Nepisiguit principal Paul Thibodeau told CBC. "And I think that the whole hockey team shouldn't have to be held accountable for what a couple of students did during the school day."

Now that all the one-day suspensions have been served, the full Nepisiguit team will be available for the playoffs, offering a chance to build more school excitement and unity in a sport that tends to dominate all life and conversation throughout Canada. With a couple of wins, the team's five dancers might even achieve what they were probably going for with their original pants-off dance off.

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