OTTAWA (AFP) — A recent bench-clearing, on-ice hockey brawl involving eight-year-old boys has provoked an uproar in Canada, and may lead to charges against a coach accused of fueling the melee, police said Wednesday.
"We were called to a local rink (in Guelph, Ontario) last Friday after the players all started fighting on the ice," Guelph Police Service Sergeant Cate Welsh told AFP.
"Now, we're considering charges against a coach of one of the teams who was involved ... for allegedly spitting on the opposing team's coach," she said, indicating an announcement was expected Thursday.
One assistant coach has already resigned amid a public outcry over the rumble, and the Ontario Minor Hockey Association suspended the coaching staffs of both teams until it concludes its own investigation.
Newspapers nationwide meanwhile described the violence as "obscene," "shocking," "borderline child abuse" and "a low point in Canadian sports."
Last Friday, boys barely four and a half feet (137 centimeters) tall with their skates on and weighing an average 60 pounds (27 kilograms) jumped from their respective benches to fight each other at the end of a match.
According to reports, their coaches purportedly encouraged them, going as far as opening the gates at their respective benches when some players started pushing each other around on the ice.
The Niagara Falls Thunder Novice AAA had just been defeated 8-1 by the Toronto-area Duffield Devils in a tournament in Guelph.
By police accounts, based on interviews with parents and arena staff, the game had been rough from the start, with players taking cheap shots at each other.
Then, when the final buzzer sounded, a donnybrook, the likes of which has not been seen in the National Hockey League since the heady 1970s and 1980s, erupted with dozens of young boys skating onto the ice to join the melee.
Given their diminutive size and strength at that age, and protective gear, however, no one was injured.
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