‘White’ hockey teams in Manitoba accused of forming league without First Nations

Five teams were part of the KJHL until May, when they left to create the Capital Region League

A lawyer representing some Indigenous hockey teams in Manitoba argued in court Wednesday that all the “white teams” got together and formed a new Junior B league that excludes First Nations.

All of the teams were part of the Keystone Junior Hockey League until May when five teams left to create the Capital Region League.

“White teams quietly got together and removed themselves leaving behind the First Nations teams,” lawyer Jamie Kagan told court.

The First Nations teams complained. A Hockey Manitoba tribunal ruled that former KJHL players would need a release to play in the new league and pay a $500 fee. The decision was to protect the KJHL from a mass exodus of players, which Kagan argued would spell the end of the league.

But that didn’t happen before the new league hit the ice in October.

The Peguis, Norway House Cree, Opaskwayak Cree, Fisher River Cree and Cross Lake First Nations filed a statement of claim in October against Hockey Manitoba, the Manitoba Amateur Hockey Association, the new league and the five teams in it.

Kagan is asking the judge for an injunction pending a trial. The injunction would expire at the end of the 2018-19 season.

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Bill Bowles, a lawyer representing the Capital Region League, said if the injunction is granted, about 100 players in the new league won’t be able to play for the season because there isn’t space on KJHL teams and it’s unlikely new teams could be formed in time.

He told court the new league was created because of safety concerns about long drives on the highway. He said it had nothing to do with racism and cautioned Kagan against making that suggestion.

The First Nations could appeal the decision through Hockey Manitoba and the court does not need to have a role in “shutting down a hockey league,” Bowles added.

“They are asking you to stop 100 kids from playing hockey.”

The judge is to deliver a decision on the injunction on Friday.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press

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