The Kootenay International Hockey League has fined the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and suspended their head coach for eight games for violating the league’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.
The league said Wednesday the punishment comes after the Nitehawks dressed two players who were not fully vaccinated.
“We have a league policy that we agreed was in the best interest of the health and safety of everyone in our league, not just the players but our team staff, our league staff, our fans, our volunteers, our billets” commissioner Jeff Dubois said.
“We take that policy policy seriously. Our expectation is for our teams to abide by that policy and in instances where that doesn’t happen, the punishments can be severe.”
Head coach Terry Jones has been absent from the Nitehawks bench since the league began its investigation on Nov. 15. He is eligible to return when Beaver Valley visits Fernie on Dec. 11.
Dubois said the players involved will not be disciplined, as monitoring of vaccination status was the responsibility of team staff. The entire Nitehawks team is now fully vaccinated, he added.
Jones said he accepts the punishment.
“I own the fact I messed up in not reminding my players to get their second shot,” he said. “That’s on me. I’m the guy who has to account for our roster, so I’ll accept that penalty.”
Jones says at start of season, two players were unsure about getting vaccinated and playing. When the league announced its mandatory vaccine policy, they got their first shots in mid-September.
The league allowed them to start the season, but Jones says it was up to him to follow up and make sure they got the second shot. “When they had their first shot, my word to them was hey, let me know when you get your second shot so I can tell the league. But it’s my responsibility to make sure that it happened and I didn’t.”
Jones adds that he supports the league’s stance on vaccination.
The Nitehawks will not forfeit any points in the standings, as often happens when teams dress ineligible players.
Dubois said the team is being punished for a violation of the league’s COVID-19 policy, but the league did not consider the players ineligible under Hockey Canada registration rules.