Tue Mar 08 09:03am EST
On paper, what the Westwood (Manitoba) Collegiate High hockey coaches did was absolutely legal: They pulled their goalie with a one-goal lead, ensuring that their Warriors team would lose its pre-playoff tie-breaker matchup with College Jeanne Sauve (Manitoba). The decision was a calculated maneuver made to ensure that Westwood would avoid a city championship semifinal against regular-season champion Oak Park (Manitoba) High, instead gaining a rematch with the same Jeanne Sauve team that it was beating 3-2 when it was actually competing.
In a twist of fate, throwing that game eventually ensured that Westwood would face precisely the Winnipeg city playoff matchup it hoped to avoid. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, outrage over a lack of sportsmanship in the 4-3 loss to Jeanne Sauve led to the suspension of coaches Ryan Butterfield and Jim West for the entire Manitoba High School hockey championship tournament, and overturned the ramifications of Westwood's win, instead advancing Jeanne Sauve to the city semifinals and forcing Westwood into a matchup with Oak Park.
The coaches' bios have since been removed from the team's website, though it has not been confirmed that they have been fired as opposed to just suspended temporarily.
Without its coaching staff -- Westwood principal Mike Wise stepped in to coach in Butterfield and West's stead -- Westwood slumped to a 4-1 loss against Oak Park, ending its run toward the Winnipeg city title far earlier than it had set itself up for.
"[Butterfield and West's decision to throw the College Jeanne Sauve game was] a bad decision, one that was lost in the heat of the moment," Wake told the Winnipeg Free Press.
"There's such a focus on winning, but this is high school sports. Everyone loves to win, but you have to make sure you do it the right way."
Perhaps most surprisingly -- and possibly inspiring -- was the reaction of the Westwood players after the loss. The National Post reported that none were happy with their coaches' decision, with some openly advocating to hand their city semifinal position to College Jeanne Sauve instead.
"Some of [the Westwood players] looked very distraught," Wake told the National Post. "The kids said, 'We'll give up our semi-finals spot and play a sudden death game [against Oak Park].'"
Of course, that's precisely what happened, with the players now forced to forge on without their coaches. While the executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association insisted that the botched thrown game was an isolated incident, he also felt strongly that Westwood's coaches had stepped across an imaginary unethical line.
"It was unfortunate, it was a poor decision by the coaches," Morris Glimscher told the Post. "What we try to push is ethics and integrity in high school sports."