On Nov. 25 parents and kids on the Centre Wellington Minor Hockey (CWMH) Atom 25 local league team learned that evening’s game would be the team’s last.
Parents and the team’s coach say they were told by CWMH officials the reason for disbanding the team was it was winning too much.
“The issue was because of how many goals my team scored and the fact that others weren’t scoring on us and the message sent to those 10-year-old boys in the dressing room was that they were too good so they had to be broken up,” said Rick Mathewson, the Atom 25 coach and the former league convener for CWMH’s novice, atom and peewee divisions.
Janice Hindley, a mother of one of the players, said, “It’s hard for the kids who have been trying to play their best, to understand that.
“You’re going to be broken up as a team because you’re too good and it’s not fair to the other kids.”
The team did have a clean record of nine wins and no losses over the season. Its largest margin of victory was 14-0 and its closest game was 5-2 – the last game the team played together against the second-best team in the league.
According to Mathewson, the Atom 25 team just “had a chemistry” after being chosen through the standard draft.
“This coach, under no circumstances, ever turned around before they went onto the ice and say, ‘let’s win’,” said Judith Meyer, a mother of another Atom 25 player. “All he said was ‘let’s go out and have fun’.”
Mathewson said when he took over as convener three years ago he instigated a points-based draft with the intention of making teams more evenly matched. He added the Atom 25 team had the overall lowest rating of all the teams in the league.
The way it works, Mathewson explained, is the players are evaluated in September by league coaches and each kid receives a numerical rating.
When it comes time for the draft, the coaches go through all of the players, try to accommodate requests for specific teams and divide the players up so there is an equal number of skilled and developing players on each team. This year was no exception.
“At the end of it, when we had finished all of the drafts, the point rating was from 39 to 41 for all seven teams,” he said.
The most skilled players are rated a five and the least skilled are rated one.
Mathewson said he evaluated the teams as the league convener in the games leading up to the Oct. 31 trade deadline, at which point the teams are supposed to be set for the rest of the season.
“There was definite parity at levels,” he explained. “Were all the teams as strong as my team was at that point in time? No. Could I figure out how to move kids to make any adjustments that would make any sense…? No.”
In mid-November Mathewson learned there had been a number of complaints against him and the Atom 25 team.
He said he learned from other coaches that the board was investigating him and the team, asking other coaches about this year’s draft and how there could be a team that was so good.
After working with the board about options to shuffle some players with the hopes of making the teams more equal, Mathewson said it was decided that nothing would be done this season – but there would be discussion about moving the select team tryouts to a date before the local league draft so the select players could be evenly distributed throughout the local league teams.
The select team consists of the most skilled local league players who try out. Players can be on both the select team and a local league team.
This year the tryout happened after the local league teams had been drafted.
“I did request starting in May of this year that the select team be picked before local league so we could disperse select players among all the teams, but was denied by the board doing that – but now it’s something they’re looking at doing after all this,” Mathewson explained.
He said he learned on Nov. 23 there would be another board meeting the following day to discuss what was to be done about the Atom 25 team – but he was not to attend because of a conflict of interest.
He said he was told on Nov. 24 the team would be disbanded, and on Nov. 25 the parents and players were informed of the decision.
“The whole mantra of hockey is to go out there, to play hard, have fun, make friends,” Meyer said. “It’s not about winning or losing and that’s one thing that was drilled into my son right from the start, right through the CHIPS program up to this point.
“With them doing this, it is now telling my son, that it is all about winning and losing.”
Mathewson said he is still coaching the select team but he has resigned as league convener and will not be coaching local league this season.
The kids on the former Atom 25 team are being dispersed to the other teams in the league.
Despite several requests for comment, Centre Wellington Minor Hockey president Jean-Paul Cousineau and vice president Christine Cook refused to talk to the Advertiser.
“Centre Wellington Minor Hockey has no comment on this subject,” Cousineau wrote in an email response.
Cook also offered an abrupt “no comment” in an exchange on the telephone.
The Ontario Minor Hockey Association did not return phone calls or emails by the Advertiser’s deadline.
Following that deadline, the following was posted on the Centre Wellington Minor Hockey website http://cwminorhockey.ca/Public/Documents/OpenLetter.pdf