Langley RCMP is investigating after an on-ice brawl between two junior B hockey teams escalated to the point that one coach allegedly assaulted the other.
The fracas happened on Thursday night at the George Preston Recreation Centre between the Langley Knights and the Mission City Outlaws.
Early in the third period — and with the visitors ahead 9-3 — a line brawl broke out after an alleged dirty hit by a Mission City player on a member of the Knights.
As the players on the ice engaged in a fight, Knights coach John Craighead allegedly jumped onto the Mission City bench 'and put his hands on the coach,' said Langley RCMP Cpl. Holly Largy.
It is also alleged he assaulted a member of the Mission team — not in uniform — who had come to the bench along with another player to try to separate the coaches, Largy said.
Police arrested Craighead. He was questioned and released without charges, Largy said.
Craighead emailed a statement to the media on Saturday night.
"First and foremost, I would like to clarify that what transpired during the game was deeply upsetting to myself … our entire team, parents and our fans," he wrote.
"I treat the players on the team like they are my own kids. Being part of the Langley Knights is like being part of a family. When unnecessary aggression is shown towards my players, I reacted as any parent would."
Craighead said the incident sent five of his players to hospital and some of them are facing injuries that will directly impact their hockey careers for the rest of their lives.
He also said that he takes full responsibility for his part and explained that he had gone to the opposition's bench for an explanation about why the Outlaws' older players were targeting one of the Knights' youngest players.
"At that time, I felt genuine fear for the safety and bodily health of my players," Craighead said.
He said five of his players were sent to hospital that night — one with a broken leg. Other injuries included a serious concussion and lacerations requiring stitches.
Craighead added the team will respect the final decisions of the league and the RCMP.
"Aside from being thoroughly disgusted and embarrassed over this incident, I will have no further comment until I complete my investigation," said Pacific Junior Hockey League executive vice-president Ray Stonehouse on Monday morning.
Five Langley players and four members of the Outlaws have been suspended, while Mission City coach Brad Veitch was handed a 10-game ban.
"Mr. Craighead is on indefinite suspension pending the outcome of my investigation," Stonehouse said.
"I am in no rush to judgment. I am going to have all the facts."
Stonehouse said the suspensions would have been equal, but Craighead's actions warranted more serious discipline.
Stonehouse said he is still in the process of gathering letters and statements from all those involved. He will also wait to see what the RCMP finds in their investigation.
Police are now in the process of going over the 'tons of footage' from the brawl and still have many people to interview to determine if criminal charges will be recommended against Craighead, Largy said.
— with files from Monique Tamminga