A West Kootenay junior hockey team has been penalized for allowing two players who weren’t fully vaccinated to take part in regular season games.
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks have been fined $2,500 and head coach Terry Jones suspended eight games for breaching the league’s COVID-19 vaccine policy.
KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois said Wednesday the players each had one vaccine dose when the season began, but had not yet had their second. He added everyone in the Nitehawks organization is now fully vaccinated, and there’s no evidence the players ever had or spread the virus.
“I think it re-enforces the importance of us as a league and our member teams doing their due diligence to make sure that our policies are followed,” said Dubois.
Dubois added the fine and suspension were in line with what the KIJHL’s policy laid out before the season began.
“We conducted an investigation, spoke to the Nighthawks and Terry, and collected information ourselves, and arrived at what we felt was a fair determination and punishment.”
Jones, who is also the Nitehawks’ general manager, was removed from the bench on Nov. 15. He’s eligible to return Dec. 11.
“Their first shot was in mid-September, and I said when you get your second shot let me know, and I’ll let the league know,” said Jones. “Then I completely forgot about it after that.
“That’s my responsibility. I should have had a notification in my phone. I own that mistake, and I’m paying for that mistake.”
All players, bench staff and on-ice officials were required by the league to be fully vaccinated to take part in training camps, games and any team-based activities prior to the start of the season in October.
It’s unlikely the KIJHL or Nitehawks will face further provincial penalties.
The league policy is more stringent than provincial requirements laid out by viaSport, which requires proof of vaccination for participants 22 years of age or older. The oldest players in the KIJHL are 20.
A spokesperson for Interior Health said in a statement the health authority wasn’t involved in the league’s decision to penalize the Nitehawks.
The KIJHL, like other hockey leagues, has already lost games to the pandemic. It’s 2019-2020 season was cut short in the playoffs, and its 2020-2021 season was scrapped after most teams had only played three games.