Fiery controversy settled after hockey game
by Blaine Meller
To borrow a literary staple, for the Cougars men’s hockey team, it was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. Less than two days after defeating SAIT 1-0 to capture their 13th ACAC title, the Cougars found themselves embroiled in controversy.
Mount Royal was deemed to have dressed an ineligible player, backup goaltender Steve Houghton, for the contest and faced the possibility of having to replay the fifth and deciding game of their series with SAIT. Houghton dressed for the final game, serving as backup to Brett Bothwell, after starter and one of the Cougars’ athletes of the year Justin Cote was injured in Game 4.
The Cougars self-reported the violation, which named Houghton as ineligible because he was only a part-time student and thus not eligible for ACAC competition. The issue went before a tribunal, comprised of athletic directors from Augustana University, Medicine Hat College and Red Deer College, which overturned the decision and kept the gold medal with Mount Royal.
“It would be extremely unfortunate to decide this championship based on a technicality such as this,” the tribunal wrote in their decision. “Common sense and the spirit of sport need to prevail. Mr. Houghton only served as an emergency back-up goaltender for one game and did not factor into the result of this championship game or series.”
“This was really exciting news for us. After the decision came down, there were a lot of handshakes and hugs,” said Cougars’ captain Darnell Glass.
“Obviously we feel this was the right decision.”
Following the original announcement of the ruling and subsequent appeal, several media outlets quoted Glass as having said the Cougars would refuse to replay the game if the tribunal upheld the ruling. During a brief press conference at the university March 31, Glass admitted the team met to discuss their options, but stopped short of saying the team would have taken those measures.
“We talked about it. None of us would have wanted to play that game. Beyond that, I really can’t say what would have happened if they (tribunal) had ruled against us,” Glass said.
“We looked at it as we had won the game and series.”
Chris Dawe, the university’s acting athletic director, echoed Glass’s thoughts and said Mount Royal shared a great deal of information with the tribunal in their appeal. Dawe said the tribunal looked at a “lot of circumstantial” evidence, but also took both the university’s and student-athletes academic records into consideration.