WINNIPEG -- The coaches of a Winnipeg high school hockey team have been suspended after they pulled their goalie to throw a playoff game to eliminate a rival from championship contention.
"High school athletics are about the spirit of the game," said Winnipeg High School Hockey League president Mike Wake, who is also the principal of the offending school, Westwood Collegiate.
Wake planned to be on Westwood's bench Friday afternoon for a tie-breaker against the team it tried to bump from the semifinals, the Oak Park Raiders.
"Yes, there's a conflict of interest, but I had to act," he said Friday.
The offending game happened Thursday.
There was a fair amount of consternation in the stands as parents, players and other coaches watched Westwood, ahead 3-2 in a game against College Jeanne Sauve, pull its goalie as time wound down.
Jean Sauve then scored the tying and winning goals and, with their relative positions in the standings, regular-season champion Oak Park was bumped from the A-Division series.
The Jean Sauve win ensured a rematch with Westwood in the semifinals, rather than Westwood having to take on Oak Park to move on to the championship.
Wake decided to let Jeanne Sauve retain the win and a spot in Saturday's semifinal and then have Westwood and Oak Park face off to decide the opponent. He said other schools in the 31-team league were consulted and agreed with his decision.
Westwood's volunteer coaches have been suspended for the rest of the season. None could be reached for comment.
Wake said no decisions have been made beyond that.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get through today."
He said credit goes to Westwood's players, who didn't like to see the game thrown and wanted to play the tie-breaker.
"These kids are winners already because they've stepped up and, as a principal, I'm very proud of them ... Unfortunately some adults got in the way of the kids.
"In the National Hockey League or the NBA or major league (baseball), if you've got a pennant clinched or a series wrapped up, yeah, maybe you don't put in your starting pitcher or starting quarterback," said Wake.
"Teams do do that. But to pull a goalie was just in total contradiction of what high school athletics stand for and what we stand for as a school."