By Darryl G. Smart
The Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League has given Brian Fish, the Wexford Raiders, and Muskoka Anglers the hook.
Well, at least by all indications.
Fish, who owned the Anglers and Raiders, was handed a lifetime ban from the CPJHL, while his teams were also put on ice. This all happened after the Anglers dropped a 13-4 decision to the Essa Stallions Saturday.
“We have worked all season with Brian Fish, who owns both teams, on his expectations and unfortunately, Mr. Fish was unwilling to compromise with the league and fellow owners,” CPJHL president Barry DeGray said in a press release. “This is a situation where we were perhaps too lenient on allowing an owner who is clearly not a team player to run league franchises and in the end, it’s the players that truly suffer.
“Therefore, it is our decision that Mr. Fish is hereby banned for life from the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League.”
Fish told muskokaregion.com that he couldn’t believe the news.
“I’m in shock,” Fish told the publication on Sunday morning. “I did not get a call or warning.”
The CPJHL will work with all Anglers and Raiders players to find them a suitable team for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Langton Royals coach and general manager Jason DoPaco understands what the CPJHL did.
“I fully support that it was in the best interest of the owners, the league and most importantly the players,” DoPaco said. “I stand behind the league’s decision as they look to improve the league as a whole and move forward in the right direction. It’s about developing these young men and putting the players first.”
This is a situation Smart Sports Podcast has been following for much of the season.
After speaking to numerous parents from both the Raiders and Anglers, many of the promises, like an education program, and tutors, to gym memberships and fitness programs made by both teams to the players were unfulfilled.
“I had spoken to Brian Fish about my concerns with the education and training program and coaching, he told me that the guy he had hired was unreliable and hadn’t been showing up and it is something he would have to deal with,” a parent who wished to remain anonymous because of their athletes hockey aspirations, said. “When I messaged Brian and asked him for my money back, because they sold me a program on total false pretense, he harassed me and said bad stuff to me about my child and me for eight hours. I had to tell him that if he message me one more time I was going to charge him with harassment and that’s when he finally stopped messaging me.”
More and more parents had concerns about their athletes during the season, so a Facebook group was created so parents from both teams could communicate and share their stories with each other.
While things began to boil online as parents were quickly figuring out what was happening with the two teams Fish owned, the on-ice products began to slide as well.
The Raiders finished its season early with a 9-17-0-0-3 record.
The Anglers struggled all season and ended its shortened season at 3-31-0-1-0.
During the first two months of the season, the Raiders were battling for a .500 record before the wheels started to come loose. They went 1-6 in November, including a 12-1 and 12-5 shellacking by the Royals. After the Christmas break, the Raiders began forfeiting road games, including one in Langton on January 26.
That is when Smart Sports Podcast discovered the team was not driving to away games because the Raiders did not pay its transportation bills. The Anglers were also missing road games for the same reason.
“They have had their away games cancelled the last few weeks,” another Anglers parent who again wanted to remain anonymous, said after the Raiders cancelled in January. “And a couple before Christmas. Wexford is then in the schedule to play those games. Then I see that they have forfeited the last couple games. You can read between the lines.”
“They have travelled to games this year by coach bus, school bus and by players driving other players with their equipment on a trailer,” the parent said.
And as what seemed like financial woes continued for both teams, the Anglers players were asked to pay $500 more to continue the season in early February.
The anonymous Anglers parent said Fish told the players that the ice had not been paid for in over a month.
This has parents wondering, where all of the money they paid for their athletes to play on the teams go?
Fish said that a player roughly pays $7,000 per season, which was for transportation and ice time. One parent said they paid $8,700.
On the league website, the Anglers had 22 players on its roster, while the Raiders had 27, including four goalies.
If you do the math, the Anglers roughly generated $154,000 in player fees, while the Raiders roughly had $189,000.
NOT THE FIRST TIME
With every mounting forfeit, and more and more complaints from parents on both teams, the league finally stepped in.
But this isn’t the first time the league has intervened on Fish.
According to a media release on July 1, 2018, by Anglers owner and president Phillip Guilmette, Fish, who, according to the release, was acting as the team’s consultant for recruitment, was relieved of his duties. http://www.cpjhl.com/news/statement-from-muskoka-anglers.
Things get confusing because in a June 1, 2018 article in the Simcoe Reformer https://www.simcoereformer.ca/…/dac1183c-959f-3886-80a0-1d7… , Guilmette said he is the Anglers’ president of hockey operations and Fish is the owner, not a consultant.
Things get even stranger a couple of months later.
After the Anglers apparently wiped its hands clean of Fish, a November 10, 2018 report on mymuskoka.com reads differently.
The article states, that an altercation between Fish, who was named owner of the Anglers in the story, got into an altercation with Kevin Garnett.
Garnett was relieved of his coaching duties days prior to the incident.
The story reads, ‘According to Garnett, team co-owner Brian Fish tried to block him from entering.
“Brian was standing at the door and wouldn’t let me in and the scuffle (ensued),” confirms Garnett.
Garnett forced his way past, with Fish calling the police and filing a complaint that Garnett had struck him on the cheekbone.
Bracebridge OPP confirm officers responded to the incident at the arena but no charges were laid.”
And when that July 1, 2018 press release was sent out, the CPJHL also said they were distancing themselves from Fish.
But in a YouTube video replay of a September 28, 2018 game between the Raiders and Brampton Royals, Fish is on the microphone, with a Raiders jersey on and introduced himself as the team’s president while conducting a post game interview with players.
BEFORE THE CPJHL
Unfortunately the CPJHL isn’t the only league Fish has left behind with many scratching their heads and asking the same questions.
Fish had a less than a year stint in Norfolk County that was well-chronicled when he brought the Greater Metro Junior Hockey League’s now defunct Norfolk Vikings to Simcoe in 2015-16 https://www.toronto.com/…/6080277-vikings-navigating-rough…/. In this Norfolk News article, it also spoke about his very short and abrupt stint with the Knights of Meaford.
After that, Fish landed on his feet with the GMHL’s Niagara Whalers, where things with that team ended on a sour note during the 2017-18 season http://www.worldhockeycentre.ca/…/statement-from-whalers.ht….
“I feel bad for all the kids that were still left to play on these two teams, because parents still had faith and hope that things would turn around and I don’t blame those parents,” parent Lyssa Monkman said. “We all knew what the outcome was going to be it just took an entire season for a bunch of idiots (CPJHL executives) to use their ears to listen to all the concerns.”