A major junior hockey league in B.C. has recently suspended a team's head coach after discovering two of its players had only been partially vaccinated against COVID-19, in violation of the league's requirement for players to be fully vaccinated to participate in the season.
On Wednesday morning, the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced that Terry Jones, head coach and general manager of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, has been suspended for eight games, because two of his players participated in team activities for about three weeks after having received only one dose of the vaccine.
The Nitehawks team has also been fined $2,500 for violating the vaccination policy.
The league implemented its COVID-19 vaccination policy in August, requiring all players, bench staff and on-ice officials to be fully vaccinated before the regular season started on Oct. 1. As part of the policy, the league checks players' vaccination status during the season.
League commissioner Jeff Dubois says after the league found out on Nov. 12 that two Nitehawks players had received only one shot, it decided to take Jones off the bench, and began an investigation on Nov. 15.
Dubois notes that Jones is the first and only person ever suspended or fined under the league's full vaccination policy.
"Based on the length of time that the players participated with the Nitehawks in contravention with our policy and the circumstances that we uncovered in the course of investigating that, we felt that that was an appropriate length of punishment," Dubois told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West.
Jones says he isn't happy with the suspension and fine, but he accepts them and admits it was his mistake to forget to remind players to get their second dose before the season started.
"I didn't put in my phone a timeline to remind my players to get their second vaccination," he said in a separate interview.
Jones says he hadn't intended for partially vaccinated players to participate in team activities during the season.
Dubois agrees it's purely an administrative error. "This wasn't an instance, in our opinion, that was [the] team seeking a competitive advantage or deliberately looking to deceive anyone."
Dubois adds that the two players involved are now fully vaccinated and can continue to play in regular season games.
He says he isn't aware of any COVID-19 cases within the league — including among Nitehawks players and their opponents — so far this season.
In a statement, the league said Jones will be able to return when the Nitehawks team visits Fernie, B.C., on Dec. 11.