The OHL is dealing with an issue when it comes to one of their franchises – the Niagara IceDogs. What has looked like a promising season for the IceDogs – who sit second in the league’s Eastern Conference – has quickly been overshadowed by a dark cloud.
According to multiple reports, the IceDogs are facing the loss of draft picks and a $250,000 fine over what is being called ‘recruitment violations’ by the league.
#OHL Announces Sanctions against Niagara IceDogs Hockey Club:
$250,000 fine plus 1st round picks in 2019 & 2021 Priority Selection process taken away for violation of certain league player recruitment policies.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) February 15, 2019
What’s in the Statement
The league release states that along with the $250K fine, the team will lose their first-round picks in both the 2019 and 2021 Priority Selection for violating certain player recruitment policies.
This comes after the league requested an outside investigation that was performed by the law firm of Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP – finding that the club did, in fact, violate the league’s player recruitment policies.
“The League takes our commitment to our players and their player experience very seriously, which includes ensuring a fair and competitive on-ic experience among all teams,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch in the release. “In order to maintain the integrity of this player experience and competitiveness with the league, it is critical that all clubs operate within the league recruitment guidelines. When a club ignores these guidelines, significant sanctions are required.”
The OHL hasn’t provided any further information as to what policies were allegedly violated, but the IceDogs do plan on appealing the penalty.
“All current Niagara IceDogs players and hockey operations staff have no involvement in the sanctions assessed today by the Ontario Hockey League,” said the organization in a statement according to the St. Catherines Standard. “An appeal will be filed.”
Past OHL Violations
This isn’t the first time the OHL has levied fines against a franchise.
In August 2012, the same sort of thing happened to the Windsor Spitfires who were also accused of violating the league’s player recruitment policy. The league fined the team $400,000 and stripped them of three first-round picks along with two second-round picks.
As the accepted the fact that there were some violations that had occurred and agreed to cooperate with the league, the league reduced the fine to $250K and the team gave up their first-round picks in 2013 and 2016 along with their second-round picks in 2015 and 2017.
Because of that, the Spitfires didn’t refute the claims and there was no appeal filed by the team.
Spitfires’ 2018-19 Season
Aside from the accusations, the Spitfires are having quite the year. They have a 32-14-7-0 record in 53 regular season games, while outscoring their opponents 237 to 168 over that span.
Their second in the Eastern Conference behind the Ottawa 67’s who have already secured their place in the OHL postseason, and lead the league’s Central Division.
The IceDogs are being led offensively by Jason Robertson – acquired from Kingston – who has 88 points in 47 games with Ben Jones and Akil Thomas rounding out the team’s top three scorers this season with 78 and 76 points, respectively.
While the league continues to pursue the sanctions against the team, the IceDogs did say they will no longer comment on the issue while they explore their appeal process.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.