OHL Levies Heavy Sanctions Against Niagara IceDogs

The Ontario Hockey League on Thursday announced a new round of heavy sanctions against the Niagara Icedogs. This started when the league received allegations that certain players had violated league policies including the Maltreatment, Bullying and Harassment Protection and Prevention Policy and Code of Conduct.

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The end result of the investigation are new fines, loss of draft picks, player bans and a general manager who is now suspended.

The List of Sanctions

Here is the full list of sanctions the OHL handed down to the Icedogs on Thursday.

  • A new $100,000 fine against the team in relation to the 2022-23 season.
  • The Icedogs first-round pick in 2024 has been forfeited.
  • Effective immediately, Darren DeDobbelaer is suspended as acting general manager for two seasons. He is eligible to be reinstated on June 1, 2025.
  • Two players, Joshua Rosenzweig and Landon Cato, have been permanently banned from the OHL.
Niagara Icedogs, OHL
The Niagara IceDogs were severely punished on Thursday for several violations. (Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

How OHL Handled Allegations

Once the allegations were received by the OHL, they retained an independent third-party investigator to conduct a thorough review. At the time, league commissioner David Branch advised DeDobbelaer, the team owner, that in order to protect the integrity of the process, the investigation was to be kept confidential and was not allowed to speak to anyone including players on the matter.

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In all, around 15 former players, coaches, staff and team officials over a period of several months were interviewed. A final report was provided to the OHL. Here is a list of important takeaways from that report.

  • Violations of the Maltreatment, Bullying and Harrassment Protection and Prevention Policy and the Code of Conduct.
  • Rosenzweig and Cato participated in serious violations of the Player Maltreatment Policy and have violated the OHL Code of Conduct including but not limited to Physical Maltreatment and Aiding and Abetting. Of note, Cato was their captain and was nominated for Humanitarian of the Year in 2021-22.
  • Despite being told to maintain confidentiality, DeDobbelaer violated the mandate.
Landon Cato, OHL, Niagara Icedogs
Landon Cato and Josh Rosenzweig each lost the privilege of participating in the OHL. (Photo credit: OHL)

In its statement, the OHL reiterated that “The protection of players on and off the ice is the paramount concern of the OHL. Violations of the OHL Code of Conduct or the Maltreatment Policy, most importantly, puts player safety and experience at risk and impacts the reputation of our teams, league and of the sport of hockey.”

Not the First Time

Just over a year ago, the Icedogs were handed a $150,000 fine related to messages sent on WhatsApp. Both Joey and Billy Burke, the general manager and head coach at the time, were each suspended indefinitely. These were inappropriate text messages sent to a group chat.

The Burkes are not eligible for reinstatement to the OHL until at least June 1, 2024. That’s only if all appropriate counseling has been completed.

The Icedogs put in a bid to host the 2024 Memorial Cup that was ultimately awarded to the Saginaw Spirit.

Head coach Ryan Kuwabara now has the heavy task of trying to help navigate the team through yet another tough situation. Time will tell what the lasting ramifications will be on this. But two major situations in two years will be extremely difficult to overcome.