October 22nd, 2021

Minor hockey board shaken up over claims of manipulation

By JAMES TUBB on October 8, 2021.

NEWS PHOTO Hockey Hounds Arena is pictured Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

A source with close knowledge of the situation has come to the News saying certain board members within Medicine Hat Minor Hockey have manipulated tryout evaluations to ensure their children play at a higher level than they are rated. One recently departed board member is backing that claim, and they both say it’s coming at the cost of other children’s development.

The News received initial word of tryout manipulation from a source who wishes to remain anonymous for their protection, to which the News has agreed.

They claim 10 players in MHMH this season were not able to be on the team they belonged to because children of certain directors or their family and friends took those spots.

The accusations stem from a black vs. white tryout game, which pits the top 36 players from evaluations against each other. The source says 10 kids ranked lower than that but had connections with directors and played in the game ahead of those who belonged there, who were subsequently forced to play at a lower level.

Four members have recently stepped down from their positions: president Byron Hall, governor of coach and player development Troy Sandau, hockey operations manager Chad Baron and ice scheduler Chad Nelson; who has agreed to stay on until November to help train a replacement.

Sandau spoke to the News and says he resigned after only six months because he saw issues such as evaluation manipulating and other issues as a situation that could not be fixed by one or two people.

“There has to be individuals in there for the right reasons and right now there’s not,” said Sandau. “They are there for a title and they are there for their own gain, for their children, is what I’ve seen first hand.”

Sandau says he was asked to join the board by a number of the membership to help improve MHMH, as he is the current president of the Medicine Hat Cubs and has been around the game a long time. He says the board needs to be made up of people with the best interests of kids in mind, not their own.

Medicine Hat Minor Hockey has yet to alter its website to reflect the change in roles, nor has it informed members of open positions or changes.

“The membership needs to know what’s going on there,” Sandau said.

The anonymous source says some of the remaining executives with MHMH have implemented a new president without allowing the other board members to vote. They also say that Hall, the former president, left the board not out of protest like the other three, but to save face amid the accusations of evaluation manipulation. They claim Hall knew about the manipulation and let it carry on.

Hall doesn’t see it that way. When contacted by the News, he declined to comment on specifics of why he stepped down but denied the notion of evaluation manipulation.

“That never happened, that’s just the belief that this city always has no matter how an evaluation goes,” Hall said. “It’s a stigma in our membership.”

Sandau disagrees.

“It’s a buddy club. People in power surround themselves with buddies, good friends,” Sandau said. “They may not be fit for the certain roles but they bring in their friends and close friends for each individual gain, which is the wrong direction that I feel the association needs to go. Unless the buddy club’s improved, I can’t see it going in a better direction any time soon.”

The News reached out to MHMHA regarding departed board members and the accusations of manipulation and received the following statements.

“MHMHA operates like all other large organizations with many moving parts and board members. Board changes can happen at any time during the year, these Board positions had no direct impact on the start of our season.”

“MHMHA remains focused on facilitating a positive playing experience for our members and players and has no further comment beyond that provided.”

Sandau says as Cubs president it hurts to see MHMH going in the wrong direction when it comes to developing kids, as the Cubs rely on it to grow their program.

“In the long run, it may not be next year, it’s probably going to be a couple years down the road where we see those effects of that association going in the wrong direction towards our junior B club,” he said.

He says it’s the kids the board is supposed to serve who are going to suffer.

“They may not realize it at a young age, but they will looking back once they’re at an older age going, ‘OK, maybe I wish I was with another association. I may have been able to capture a little bit of my dream,’ Sandau said.

This is a developing story with more to come.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that only one player had moved on from Medicine Hat’s U13AA team to the SEAC’s U15AAs. Five players from Medicine Hat’s two U13AA teams earned spots on SEAC’s U15AA roster. 

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