Kootenay International Junior Hockey League president Larry Martel said the Kamloops Storm organization is at a low point in its existence.
Two tampering charges, which came with a $10,000 fine and a one-year suspension, were levied to the Kamloops Storm in July after the league determined the club’s owner, Barry Dewar, was involved in improperly attempting to recruit two players who were carded with another KIJHL team.
“It’s a bogus charge,” said Dewar, noting the club is appealing the decision. “Do I believe any of it? No. Am I worried about it? Obviously. What they did is give us the maximum they can give under every single portion of the rule.”
Each tampering charge was accompanied by a $5,000 fine and one-year suspension. Martel commuted Dewar’s suspension to one year from two.
“It’s a great city and it’s a great hockey market and it’s just a bit of a mess right now,” Martel said, noting tampering infractions took place during the Storm’s prospects’ camp, which ran from July 6 to July 8. “All franchises go up and down. Right now, we’re in a low point in that city.”
Each of the charges also came with a 10-game suspension for the Storm’s head coach, who the club announced was Jassi Sangha in an Aug. 27 press release.
That was not true.
Johnathan Dewar, Barry’s son, is officially the Storm’s head coach, appointed to incur the 20-game suspension so Sangha was not punished.
“Making Johnathan the head coach was in fact to protect the team in so far as, if I’m suspended and Jassi is suspended and they are talking about suspending other people as well, then you have nobody on the bench and you start forfeiting games. That’s not good for the league. That’s not good for us. It was a reasonable step to protect the franchise.”
Dewar relinquished general manager duties in August and handed the reins to Matt Kolle.
Both Dewar and Kolle said on Thursday the transition had nothing to do with the tampering charges and suspension, which also required Dewar to step away from coaching input, player contracts and player interaction, according to Martel.
The plan was always for Dewar to move on from the role while helping the new GM learn the ropes, Kolle said.
Dewar was asked why media was not told his son was head coach and why the fine and suspension were not made public in the press release that discussed organizational changes or interviews that followed.
“I guess because, A, I don’t think it’s true, so, obviously, it’s like everything before you go through the court of law, you want to make sure you have all your facts in a row and I think it’s a little sensational on Larry’s part to release this information before the proper channels have been followed,” Dewar said, sharing sentiment that was echoed by Kolle.
“Why make a story out of nothing? Nobody has listened to our side of the story at all. The league has a policy. If you look at our constitution and our appeals process, the league hasn’t followed that.”
Martel said an appeal hearing was scheduled for Monday, but Dewar was out of town and could not access Wi-Fi so the video conference had to be postponed.
Kolle said the club preferred not to delve into off-ice issues in interviews with media when organizational changes were announced in August, noting that is why KTW was told Sangha is head coach, not Dewar.
“I don’t think people want to focus on muddy waters,” Kolle said. “We’re here for our players to compete in the KIJHL and that’s what we want to be the focus. I don’t want to focus on a soap opera. I want to focus on helping kids meet their goals and aspirations and put a good product on the ice for the community to enjoy.
“These items we can leave behind the scenes with the big boys.”
The KIJHL is still not sure who the big boys are when it comes to the Storm.
“That’s the messiest part,” Martel said. “It’s not the tampering. It’s the ownership. I get all kinds of stories. Who is the actual ownership? You never get a straight answer.”
Kolle said the $10,000 fine has been paid by Parallel Storm Hockey Group Limited, the ownership group which KTW was told by the Storm consists of 51 per cent majority owner Dewar and 49 per cent owner Tracy Mero.
Martel said Dewar is the 100 per cent owner of the Storm in the eyes of the KIJHL and BC Hockey.
“We specifically asked Barry because we were told in April that he owned 51 per cent and this other Parallel Storm group owned 49 per cent,” Martel said. “We asked them in June. Who is the owner? We need documentation on this.
“He told BC Hockey the exact same thing: He owns 100 per cent. That’s all the paperwork that’s been given. I would love to know who actually owns the team.”
Dewar was asked to clarify the ownership situation on Thursday.
“I can’t comment on that,” he said. “That’s yet to be determined. There are two different trains of thought. That’s one of them [Dewar is 100 per cent owner]. The other is that Parallel owns part of it.”
Should the league uphold the fine, Dewar said anyone who is a shareholder in the company is liable to pay for it.
“It’s a team fine,” Dewar said. “It’s not a Barry Dewar fine.”
Martel said the other team involved in the tampering allegations will not be named as it has done nothing wrong.
KTW has learned that team was the Chase Heat.