Minor hockey coach Ryan Arnold and his assistant Shawn Gendron will be allowed to coach the Viking Construction Tier 1 Cougars at their provincial tournament later this month.
The Citizen has learned the Prince George Minor Hockey Association has rescinded a 30-day suspension issued last week to the two coaches for their actions following a tournament game in Vernon on Feb. 16.
Instead, Arnold was given a one-game suspension, which he served last week when Viking played the Players Bench tier 3 bantam Cougars. Gendron's suspension was reduced to two games. He missed last week's game and will serve out his sentence when Viking plays its next game next week.
"Ryan ended up getting one game and Sean got two games," said Viking assistant coach Eddie Dent. "They should be good to go for provincials. We were hoping they would be a bit faster [in the investigation] but now with minor hockey making its final decision, hopefully that puts this to rest."
PGMHA conducted its probe into the coaches' actions following the game on Sunday, Feb. 16 and made a final ruling at a meeting held Tuesday night. In a press release sent to The Citizen on Friday, PGMHA president Alec Hartney made no mention of the amended length of the suspensions from the original 30-day sentences handed out a week ago.
"While we acknowledge that the foregoing of the handshake at the end of the game is a show of poor sportsmanship, we appreciate that coaches sometimes lose their composure when faced with a perceived injustice to their team," said Hartney, in the letter. "At this time, we would emphasize that the circumstances surrounding this incident do not reflect either the ability or character of the coach."
Because no names were used in the release, it is unclear whether Hartney was referring to Arnold or Gendron when he mentions the "character of the coach."
Hartney also failed to identify Matt Marotta as the Viking player who, against the coaches orders, decided to remain on the ice to shake the hands of the Nanaimo players. Hartney went on praise Marotta and his teammates for their conduct.
"We wish to commend the behavior of the player who displayed good sportsmanship, and thank him for setting such a good example for his teammates," said Hartney. "It is our position that all players on this team are not only great athletes, but are a great group of kids as well.
"PGMHA will continue to support all those who commit their time and energy to the game of hockey and now considers the matter closed."
Upset about the failure of tournament official to start the time clock during an overtime period in a playoff game which resulted in the Nanaimo team scoring the game-winning goal, Arnold and Gendron ordered their players to go to the dressing room without lining up for the traditional post-game handshakes with their opponents.
News of their actions and Marotta's decision to stay behind as the lone representative of his team prompted an outcry of outrage towards the Prince George coaches that was picked up by media sources across the country and went viral on social media networks.
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