Despite sanctions against franchise, Niagara IceDogs Orientation Camp goes ahead as planned

GM suspended two seasons, team captain and netminder kicked out of OHL over unspecified incident. Full rundown of the evolving situation and what’s been said to date. Photo credit: OHL/Natalie Shaver

 

It was an interesting 48 hours recently for the Niagara IceDogs.

It was late last Thursday afternoon, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and commissioner David Branch issued sanctions against the hockey club with the following statement:

The Ontario Hockey League received allegations that certain Niagara IceDog players had violated league policies including the Maltreatment, Bullying and Harassment Protection and Prevention Policy and our Code of Conduct. 

The league retained an independent third-party investigator to conduct a thorough investigation. At that time, the Commissioner advised the current team owner, Darren DeDobbelaer, that in order to protect the integrity of the process, the investigation was to be kept confidential and he was not to speak with players or others concerning the subject matter. 

The investigator interviewed approximately 15 former players, coaches, staff and team officials over a period of several months. 

The league has received the report of the investigator. This report confirmed: 

Violations of the Maltreatment, Bullying and Harassment Protection and Prevention Policy and the Code of Conduct,

Niagara IceDog players Joshua Rosenzweig and Landon Cato participated in serious violations of the Player Maltreatment Policy and have violated the OHL Code of Conduct including but not limited to Physical Maltreatment and Aiding and Abetting respectively, and despite being instructed to maintain the confidentiality of the investigation, team Governor, Owner and General Manager Darren DeDobbelaer violated the confidentiality directive of the League. 

Based on the investigation findings, the Commissioner of the League has issued the following order: 

In relation to the 2022/2023 season, the Niagara IceDogs are hereby fined $100,000. 

The Niagara IceDogs shall forfeit their first selection in the 2024 OHL Priority Selection draft.

 

Effective immediately, Darren DeDobbelaer is suspended from acting as team General Manager for two seasons to June 1, 2025. 

Niagara IceDog players Joshua Rosenzweig and Landon Cato have permanently lost the privilege to participate in the OHL. 

The protection of players on and off the ice is the paramount concern of the OHL. Violations of the OHL Code of Conduct or the Maltreatment Policy, most importantly, puts player safety and experience at risk and impacts the reputation of our teams, league and of the sport of hockey. 

Those sanctions led Mayor of St. Catharines Mat Siscoe and the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) David Oakes to issue this quick response:

We, along with the rest of our community, are shocked by the statement issued by the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) regarding the owner of the Niagara IceDogs and two of their players. We fully support the actions taken by the OHL and condemn the actions of those involved that are described as “serious violations of the League’s Code of Conduct and Maltreatment, Bullying and Harassment Protection and Prevention Policy.”

For more than 15 years our community has shown unprecedented support for our hometown hockey team. We have celebrated their victories and stood by them through their struggles. The results of the OHL investigation show that the leadership of the organization and certain players have violated the trust of our community, and immediate action must be taken.

We have reached out to the Commissioner of the OHL asking for information and a meeting with OHL leadership, to understand the League’s position and the results of the investigation. We are also demanding a meeting with the ownership group of the team immediately to discuss this situation and to determine a path forward that will restore the trust of the community.

This is an unacceptable situation that must be addressed swiftly and decisively. It is our hope that we as a community can find a path forward that ensures these actions are neither condoned nor ignored and will restore our collective faith in the IceDogs organization.

On Friday afternoon, owner Darren DeDobbelaer and assistant general manager Wes Consorti issued the following statements through the law firm Lucentem Sports and Entertainment Law and IceDogs website respectively.

Yesterday I spoke with and received the decision of the OHL Commissioner regarding the findings of their investigation against the Niagara IceDogs. It was also yesterday that I received confirmation regarding the sanctions against me and our team.

At this point, we are fully cooperating with the Commissioner’s office, and I have had my legal counsel move toward filing an appeal of this sanction.

But it must be noted that I have yet to receive a copy of the report of the OHL’s investigation and I would ask the Commissioner’s office to provide said document to me and my legal counsel for immediate review. I take these allegations very seriously, so it is imperative that I be given an opportunity to review the OHL’s findings, in detail, with my legal counsel.

We are also working in earnest to ensure that we provide supports to our players and their families during this difficult time, given the uncertainly they all face. I will be working with the interim management team to put those supports in place.

I look forward to filing my appeal and defending my position.

I would ask you to direct all comments and inquiries to my legal counsel at Lucentem Sports and Entertainment Law.

Consorti’s statement read as follows:

We recently received the decision of the OHL Commissioner regarding the findings of their investigation against the Niagara IceDogs Hockey Club and two of its players, along with the sanctions imposed upon the club, the players, and the club’s owner and general manager, Darren DeDobbelaer, pursuant to said findings. 

We are taking these findings very seriously, and we are fully cooperating with the Commissioner’s office to bring clarity to the situation. We are also focusing on providing support and services to the rest of our players and their families during this difficult time through channels within our organization, the league and outside our organization. 

We will continue to communicate with our players and families and update our stakeholders as further developments arise. 

The Niagara IceDogs want to make it very clear that The league and The Club put tremendous emphasis on our players well being and safety. The League and The Club are here to ensure the best experience for our players on and off the ice.  

We kindly ask that you direct any questions or inquiries regarding this matter to the league office’s attention.  

Emails to both DeDobbelaer and Consorti went unanswered.

Despite all of that, the IceDogs held an orientation camp for all of their 2023 draft picks and/or players that finished their rookie season with the club including Kevin He. Close to three dozen players attended.

Here’s a recap from the IceDogs website: 

34 IceDogs players and prospects had a chance to demonstrate their skills in front of IceDogs management on Saturday May 6th at Seymour Hannah Sport Complex. The players were split between two teams, Team Red and Team White, and competed against each other in two games over the course of the day. The games consisted of 5-on-5 hockey and two 30 minute periods.

Game 1 saw Team White defeat Team Red 6-4 after a dominant first period in which they led 5-0. Team Red crawled back in the second and was able to bring the game within one after Oscar Wu scored to make it 5-4. However, with the net empty Ryan Roobroeck found the loose puck in the neutral zone and fired it in the open cage to ice the game and give his team the 6-4 win. The second overall pick ended the game with 4 points.

Game 2 ended with the same scoreline as game 1, however, saw Team Red come out on top this time out. Team White got off to a hot start scoring 2 goals in the first 3 minutes of the game. Team Red came back quickly with 5 unanswered goals to lead 5-2 as the first period came to a close. Team Red got out to a 6-2 lead in the second with Team White adding a few consolation goals to result in a 6-4 final score. Kevin He lead the game in scoring with 3 goals.

DeDobbelaer officially took over the Niagara IceDogs on July 7, 2022 after the Burke family sold the franchise following another league investigation into inappropriate text messaging from then head coach Billy Burke and general manager Joey Burke. 

Niagara finished its first season under DeDobbelaer’s ownership with a (12-47-9) record. 

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