The game took place at the at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre on Jan. 17. Right to Play MTA raised $1,600 from the event.
The two players involved had been drinking throughout the game, and fought in the third period of the Right to Play Winter Classic in front of an estimated 400 spectators. The fight, which was encouraged by referees and coaches, was intended to excite the quieting crowd. After the game, tension ran high in the locker room, and one player was sent to the hospital.
The fight will threaten the event in future years.
Cole Todd, the manager of parks and recreation for the town of Sackville, heard about the fight the next day. Cole said the only way he would consider hosting the game again would be if the building’s contract was followed to a tee, and if there was a security and possibly an RCMP presence.
“We would consider sitting down with the parties next year, however there is going to have to be a lot of changes made in order for that game to ever happen here again.”
Right to Play MTA’s president Caila Henderson said that it would have been difficult to police the drinking, but that Right to Play would comply with the requests of the rink staff in order for the event to continue.
“It’s something that comes along with every university event, but it’s not something that we encourage,” Henderson said.
The teams were level at 2-2 after the first period. The varsity team started to pull ahead, and by the end of the second period, the score was 6-2.
“The refs came over, and they asked if there were any two players who wanted to go for a little fight to get the crowd back into it,” said Kevin Isherwood, one of the two players involved in the fight.
Isherwood and linemate Jeff Bell volunteered.
“It was supposed to be a joke,” Isherwood said.
John Welch, a first-year on the junior varsity team skated over from the other blue line. When the puck dropped, Welch and Isherwood dropped their gloves, and grabbed each other’s jerseys.
Isherwood threw a few fake punches. Welch said he instinctually reacted and misunderstood the fake punches. Welch replied with real ones.
Welch said that he was encouraged by both his coaches and the referees to fight.
“Bottom line is that I should have known it was a joke, but I didn’t,” Welch said.
Isherwood said that a lack of communication between the two caused the incident.
“I believe the entire thing was just a mistake—a misunderstanding between me and John,” Isherwood said.
Multiple spectators thought the fight was fake because the referees did not break it up. Welch said that after the fight, he was congratulated by some of the referees for his performance.
Executive members of Right to Play MTA said they were surprised and disappointed by the fight.
“Right to Play is about sport for development,” said Westin Cook, a Right to Play executive member. “It’s far from sport for violence. We work in war-torn countries with children who have been exposed to stuff like that, so it’s [the] exact opposite of what we stand for.”
Henderson was working the door when the fight happened.
“When you’re running an event that you’ve worked so hard on, you obviously want everything to go right,” Henderson said. “You want people to be having fun in the right way.”
Heather Webster, Mount Allison Students’ Union’s (MASU) vice-president, campus life, said that MASU is looking into liability training for clubs and societies in the fall.
Webster said this action would be taken to make sure “[the executives] of clubs and societies are aware of the risks they are taking when throwing house parties, and throwing these different events.”
MASU president Melissa O’Rourke added, “I think that it will help people realize the consequences when they are planning events.”
Admission was a $3 donation, and all proceeds went to Right to Play, an organization that, according to its website, seeks “to use sport and play to educate and empower children and youth to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities.”