On Wednesday, February 29, the Winthrop High girls hockey team hosted a first round playoff game at Larsen Rink against the team from Ashland-Medway.
The record shows, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has upheld, that Winthrop won a tight 3-1 game, that was well and fairly played by the two teams on the ice.
Unfortunately, in the days immediately following that game Winthrop school officials, coaches and even the players, were forced to defend themselves because of the reckless actions of a parent of one of the Winthrop players, who allegedly aimed a green light laser pointer at the rink and the opposing goalie during the first minutes of the third period, in an apparent attempt to distract the goalie or her teammates.
It should be noted that no goals were scored by either team during this time and the score of game was tied 1-1 at the time, according to police reports filed several days later. Following the game, no player on either team reported suffering any ill effects from the episode, which reportedly lasted only a couple of minutes, and only a couple of the players from the Ashland-Medway team even reported seeing the light during the game. A few days after the game, and after several local television media outlets had raised the incident to the level of something like a crime against humanity, the parents of the Ashland-Medway goalie reported that their daughter had suffered headaches following the incident and intimated that the laser-pointer incident was the cause.
The Winthrop Police and the Suffolk District Attorney have filed a charge of disturbing the peace against the suspect in the case.
According to Winthrop Athletic Director Peter Gobiel, he was notified by a parent during the opening minute of the third period that â€œsomeone was shining a laser light onto the ice.â€
Gobiel explained that he immediately asked Parks and Recreation Director Sean Driscoll to go to the far side of the rink to see if he could see where the light was coming from, while he headed toward the bleachers to see if he could identify the source.
Upon reaching the bleachers, Gobiel explained that he was met by Assistant Superintendent Lisa Howard, who also informed him that â€œsomeone has got a laser.â€
â€œRight at that time, a parent, who we later determined was a Medway parent, started yelling up into the stands at another man,â€ explained Gobiel.
Gobiel said at that point, the attitude of the crowd had become tense and he moved to get between the parent who was yelling and the parent further up in the stands.
â€œThe other parents was in the last row, standing near to the I-beam and kind of hidden from view,â€ said Gobiel. â€œHe had his arms crossed, but you could see under his arms that he was holding something in his hand and it looked like a green light.â€
While Gobiel tried to calm down the Medway parent, Howard approached the man in the last row and asked him to leave the rink, which he did.
â€œTo this point, from when I was first notified that someone was shining something onto the rink, to when we kicked (him) out, less than two minutes had passed, throughout it all, both teams continued to play,â€ said Gobiel.
Gobiel also said that a few moments after Howard had removed the alleged laser-pointing father, he noticed that a woman (later determined to be the wife of a Medway assistant coach) was waving frantically to her husband and pointing to her phone. The coach, upon seeing her, looked at his phone and realized that his wife had texted him about the incident.
â€œAt that point, the assistant coach notified the referees, the game was stopped and I was paged to the referees booth,â€ said Gobiel. â€œWhen I got to the booth, the referees told me that someone was shining a light onto the ice and I told them that he had been removed from the rink. The coach and referee skated away and the game started again. In total, Iâ€™d say less than five minutes had elapsed, from when we were first notified to my being called to the booth and the game being re-started.â€
Gobiel went on to explain the steps that Winthrop school officials took following the game to try and make sure that no one from Ashland-Medway program, including their players, had felt that the game was effected by the incident. A post-game meeting that included Gobiel, Howard, Winthrop Superintendent John Macero, both coaches and both referees left the Winthrop administration feeling that the matter had been settled.
â€œThe Medway coach told us after the game, Winthrop made one mistake in the game and we capitalized, we made two mistakes and they capitalized, end of story,â€ said Gobiel.
Unfortunately for the Winthrop players, their parents and coaches and the Winthrop school community as a whole, it was not the end of the story.
Within days Ashland-Medway parents and coaches were complaining that the outcome of the game was a result of a â€œless than five minutesâ€ incident, that was perpetrated by an individual who had no official, unofficial or direct link to the Winthrop girls team.
Television news vans, parked outside of the suspectâ€™s daughterâ€™s home, even though the suspect reportedly does not live there anymore.
The Winthrop Superintendent, Athletic Director and even Winthrop Police Chief fielded requests for comment from rabid reporters who had nothing bigger to report on that day and the disappointed parents of female high school hockey players lamented â€œwhat mightâ€™ve beenâ€ to any TV camera or big time news reporters that would listen.
Nobody wants to downplay the incident, sweep it under the rug or make light of the situation.
The man who stands accused of disrupting this game should face the stiffest punishment that can be meted out, under the circumstances. I actually wish that the Winthrop Police and Suffolk DA had been able to follow through with assault and battery charges on the alleged â€œhockey dad.â€
However, this manâ€™s crimes, whatever they rise, were not perpetrated by the girls playing on the ice – for either side.
â€œIâ€™ve gotten multiple emails and messages from people who said that we shouldâ€™ve forfeited the game,â€ exclaimed Superintendent Macero. â€œWhat Iâ€™ve tried to tell people, is that if our girls had made any mistakes, or even if any member of the school department had been involved, I would absolutely have forfeited the game. But thatâ€™s not the case. Our girls, our team, our coaches and school employees all did what they were supposed to do, so I didnâ€™t feel that I should punish them for the actions of an individual who was unrelated to the team.â€
At present it appears that no one who took part in the game, on either side of the ice, had anything to do with the actions of that lone hockey dad.
More importantly, there have been no reports that anyone who WAS on the ice has suffered any long-term, ill effects of this incredibly foolish and ill-advised prank.
The Winthrop team followed up its victory over Ashland-Medway, with a 1-0 loss on Saturday night, knocking them from the post-season tournament.
Unfortunately, the Winthrop girls hockey team, its players, coaches and their parents are still having to answer for the actions of someone who has nothing to do with the program.