IDAHO FALLS — A high school hockey team has received an unprecedented sanction banning it from participating in a state championship.
The Idaho Falls Tigers Hockey team, which was seeded first for the state competition that starts Friday morning, will likely be watching from the bleachers if the Idaho Amateur Hockey Association doesn’t reconsider its decision.
The board voted to sanction the team for backing out of a national competition earlier this week.
“This isn’t just about playing your final game in front of a home crowd, it’s about life lessons,” Jim DiSanza, IAHA vice president, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It’s about following through with your commitments, not taking the easy way out.”
DiSanza says the sanction was a direct result of the local team backing out of a national competition.
The team had previously committed to participate in the USA Hockey Nation High School Tournament, but according to parents, after further reading of the rules, they discovered a number of their players were not eligible to play, including their two goalies.
Hockey is not a sanctioned high school sport in Idaho, so the Idaho Falls team is considered a club sport. As a result there are players on the team who attend schools other than Idaho Falls High.
Parents say the national committee and IAHA had conflicting messages on qualifying teams, and they were lead to believe their team and players were eligible — in fact, they participated once before.
Players that were deemed ineligible were those who attended schools other than Idaho Falls High School and players who do not attend a full load of classes, because they are close to graduation, according to parents.
Parents and coaches say those disqualifying factors were not known at the time the team paid the $1,500 deposit to enter the national competition.
“I want to make it clear that this isn’t the kids’ fault,” Tom Jones, parent to one of the players tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We’ve had several of the volunteers offer to resign over this because we, the adults, recognize it was our mistake, not the kids’.”
Backing out of the national competition could adversely affect all hockey teams in Idaho, as the national committee will decide a sanction later this year.
“We are trying to head off any statewide sanction imposed by the national committee,” DiSanza said. “It could go one of two ways: They ban every team in the state for three years from participating in national competitions, or we present our sanction to them, hoping it suffices, and they leave it alone.”
DiSanza said the Idaho Falls team appealed the decision to suspend them from the state tournament this year.
“The vote from committee members came back as 17-0 upholding the suspension,” DiSanza told EastIdahoNews.com. “Four committee members from the Idaho Falls area were not allowed to participate in the vote.”
DiSanza went on to say IAHA contacted the USA national office, and it supported the suspension.
“It’s just not right to the kids,” Brian Anderson, the team’s junior varsity coach, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Our goal is to keep these kids on the ice — they have earned it.”
Making up the majority of Idaho Falls Tigers team are 11 seniors, many who have played hockey for more than 10 years.
“If we would have known how severe the consequences were going to be, we would have never backed out,” said Coleson Dobson, Idaho Falls Tigers forward. “We just want to play — it’s our last year.”
“I hate that we had to do this, it really is horrible,” DiSanza said. “But we have to think about the affiliates across the state. There are teams all over worried that they could be banned from national competitions because of this one team’s choice.”
This story was originally published by EastIdahoNews.com. It is published here with permission.