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'Good news for us': Ramblers president pleased Oct. 13 win over Valley Wildcats restored after ineligible player appeal

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AMHERST, NS - The Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers are getting back the win the Maritime Junior Hockey League had taken from them for allegedly using an ineligible player - but is still facing other sanctions.

The Ramblers originally defeated the Valley Wildcats 4-3 on Oct. 13 at the Amherst Stadium. The win set off a series of events that led to the suspension of Amherst coach and general manager Jeff LeBlanc and a fine of $1,000 levied against the team. The win was also changed to a forfeit.

The Ramblers successfully appealed the decision by league president Brian Whitehead, contending that the team was never told the player – Colton McKenna – had not paid his fee to the league.

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MHL takes two points from Amherst Ramblers for using ineligible player

“This is good news for us,” Ramblers president Gary Brown said Oct. 23 after hearing that the team's appeal was successful.

“To us, it was about the pay-to-play policy and the process the league used to make its decision. There was never any notification given the club on the 13th that the player fee had not been received on the 12th. We were not told until after the game had been played. There was never a date given for players that join a team after Oct. 1.”

The league’s appeals committee held a hearing Oct. 22 and, in its decision released Oct. 23, decided to give the club back its win, but reinstated the original suspension and fine – something the team is considering appealing to Hockey Nova Scotia.

“We’re going to meet as an organization to decide how to proceed on that matter,” Brown said.

In a letter to the team, a copy of which has been obtained by the Amherst News, the committee said it feels “the league president erred by hearing an appeal filed by Amherst on Oct. 16, 2018 regarding the president’s decision of Oct. 15, 2018 to issue a fine and suspension to the Ramblers.

“The committee upholds the appeal filed by the Ramblers and overturns the president’s (decision) to award the game to Valley. The committee further rules that the president’s decision of Oct. 15, 2018 to issue a fine and suspension to the Ramblers be reinstated until such time as the appeal filed by the Ramblers on Oct. 16, 2018 is held.”

Because of a potential conflict of interest by members of the appeals committee due to the hearing held Oct. 22, it has decided the Ramblers appeal of Oct. 15 will need to be forwarded to the appeals committee of Hockey Nova Scotia.

Should Hockey Nova Scotia not hear the appeal or rule there is no conflict of interest, the MHL appeals committee will hear the appeal.

The MHL is also making several recommendations so similar situations won't happen again. The league is to present a revised player registration policy to the board of governors at its January 2019 meeting for consideration, which will include a policy requiring players joining a team after the player registration due date of Oct. 1 to be required to pay the fee prior to participating in any game.

The policy is to include specific sanctions for violating the policy. It's expected the revised policy will be adopted at the 2019 annual general meeting.

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