A Jack of all trades?

Kenn Oliver
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Some contend Lee's positions as HNL president and private hockey school owner cross the line

“The crap’s going to hit the fan with this conflict of interest between Jack Lee and Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador,” insists Randy Pearcey, co-owner of Xtreme Hockey, a private hockey school operating in St. John’s that’s in direct competition with Lee’s Newfoundland Blizzard Dogs Hockey.
Lee is also the president of HNL, the governing body for hockey in Newfoundland.

Jack Lee isn't just the president of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, he's also the owner and operator of one of the most successful private hockey enterprises on the island. There are some, including Xtreme Hockey co-owner and operator Randy Pearcey, who believe Lee wearing both hats represents a conflict of interest.

“The crap’s going to hit the fan with this conflict of interest between Jack Lee and Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador,” insists Randy Pearcey, co-owner of Xtreme Hockey, a private hockey school operating in St. John’s that’s in direct competition with Lee’s Newfoundland Blizzard Dogs Hockey.

Lee is also the president of HNL, the governing body for hockey in Newfoundland.

“I have never in my life seen such a conflict, and anyone in their right mind would have to see it the same way,” Pearcey says.

For Lee’s part, he’s had enough conversations with critics and heard enough through hockey channels to be well aware that a sentiment of injustice exists.

“You’re goddamn right it has come up,” says Lee, who insists he was up front with the voting delegates when he first threw his hat into the ring four years ago seeking to become chair of HNL’s minor council.

“I told people straight up in my speech that I’m not going to apologize because of what I do for a living.

“I’m proud of my business. I’m proud of the people who came through my program and went on to play at elite levels. And I’m proud of what I’ve done the last two years as the president, and hopefully the next two years we’ll grow on what we started, and hopefully when I finish my role as president that my business will still be successful.”

Lee maintains some folks, including the Hockey Canada brass, are not accustomed to branch officials also making a career offering instruction to minor hockey players above and beyond that which is available from a given athlete’s respective minor hockey association.

It’s a trend he only sees continuing.

“Because the majority of people who are quality coaches are working in the private hockey business because they’re getting paid to do it,” he said.

Lee says his presidency hasn’t made his business more profitable. In fact, in some cases he thinks it might actually be hurting it.

“My business hasn’t grown any more since I became the president. I’m exactly where I am, with the people who patronize my business, as I was when I became involved.”

Pearcey, however, wholeheartedly disagrees, and he’s heard as much from the parents.

“Parents have called me and said, ‘I have no choice, if I don’t put him over there when the all-star selections come next fall, he isn’t going to be picked.’ And you know something? They’re right, they don’t get picked.

“That’s the sad part.”

A letter to the Telegram’s sports department from a concerned parent who asked not to be named suggested the same. The parent wrote, “there is too much potential for bias” when private hockey owners are making decisions that affect minor hockey selections.

“When it comes to picking the player for the last roster position and you are down to two players — one who is part of your private hockey program and is paying over $1,000 a year, and the other player is not part of your private hockey program — which player do you pick?

“I can tell you from what I’ve seen countless times, the player that is getting picked is the customer of the private hockey program.”

According to the author, even the young players are acutely aware of the bias shown towards others.

Lee has heard it before, but contends it’s not as black and white as what the critics suggest.

When it comes to picking elite level teams of, say, 20 players, it’s well known that the first 10 to 15 are the easiest to pick simply because the best players are easily identified at any given camp.

“The last five selections are tough, so you have to give some accessibility to persons to make the decision on kids who make these teams.”

Lee says, “anybody who suggests Wally Bray is going to take a kid that’s in our program over some kid from another private hockey program or across Newfoundland is absolutely wrong.”

He goes on to suggest that like any coach appointed to head up a provincial age group teams, Bray — Lee’s hockey business partner, who also serves as technical director for the St. John’s Caps Minor Hockey Association — is picking a provincial under-14 team capable of winning, not one that will maintain or increase the profit margins at their respective private operations.

“He wants to come back from Moncton in October and say ‘We won,’” Lee says. “He doesn’t care who the kids’ parents are, how much money they have or what program they went through.”

“It’s not just Wally Bray picking the team by himself.”

That’s precisely where some, including Pearcey, suggest the conflict of interest becomes more evident and far more controversial.

Joining Bray on the provincial under-14 coaching staff, for instance, are Todd Budgell and Lee’s son, Mike, both part of the Newfoundland Blizzard staff.

Pearcey says more qualified coaches, such as Darren Halloran and his Xtreme Hockey partner, Andrew McKim, were passed over. And it’s not the first time.

“McKim applies for everything, but they won’t give him a thing. They’re intimidated. They’re afraid he’ll get the kids to come to Xtreme,” Pearcey alleges.

“They turned around and hand him director of operations. You know what that position is? That’s a flunky job.”

But Lee is steadfast in his defence of HNL’s coaching selections.

“I don’t select who coaches our high performance teams. There’s a committee which does that.

“So am I going to influence five other people to take my coach over some other coach? How long would I last? Where would my credibility be if I was stepping in there all the time doing that stuff?”

 

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

Organizations: Caps Minor Hockey Association

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Moncton

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Recent comments

  • hockey family
    September 27, 2013 - 11:08

    We have had our kids in the hockey system for years, and yes in Jack Lees camps. Parents face the truth, if your kids are not picked maybe you should look at yourself and your kids. During the summer camps you could see which kids would make it and which would not--kids coming late and skipping classroom sessions and full days --this doesn't show the commitment to make it. Were these kids picked for the All Stars? NO!!!! Don't blame the picking committee parents. ( I will not get into the behaviour we all witnessed at the tournament in Central Easter but some mothers are more immature than their sons.)

  • hockeyforlife45
    September 25, 2013 - 10:12

    i find it amusing reading the comments on this article. Clearly coming from people who know nothing about the game or are involved in opposite programs. The best players are suppose to be picked for the high performance programs, along with the best coaches available. three years ago bray picked a u14 team that had mostly blizzard players. the year after, there was new staff and 6 maybe 7 changes to that roster, all of which were blizzard players. This year with a blizzard u14 staff on hand one player who is arguably top 6 forward in this province was cut. When asked why he was cut hnl had an answer to which was disgusting. he dumps the puck to much.. There are allot of great coaches out there who run to private hockey instead of minor hockey for "free" trips and to further help there sons or daughters career. there is no place for private hockey in minor hockey. But at the end of the day its about the kids not the large egos. As for Halloran texting during games is a lie I was there,and seen many conversations between him and mckim which had nothing to ever do about coaching the team. He won a gold medal with the u16 and was replaced the year after with "goulds" staff and blizzard staff. This entire article never should of landed in the papers. It degrades everything that hockey stands for. Developing hockey players. and having fun while doing so.As for where Mr. lee lives that is no ones business. typical comment of being jealous of others success. This is a topic that never should of seen the papers and unfortunately the kids will continue to suffer in the end.

  • Ashley
    September 24, 2013 - 23:54

    Its about time someone wrote something on this. Mr. Lee cant see the forest through the trees and makes no apologies for it. Lets say two players are trying out for a provincial team and all things being equal, skill, size, etc. But one plays his summer hockey with the blizzard dogs and the other with X-treme hockey. The coaches for the team all work at Blizzard hockey, know one of the players and has even selected him for the travel team. Who does he pick? Most people would say The blizzard dog, why? The coach is familiar with him and knows what he can expect from him in a big game, such as the ACC. The other player he barely knows at all, is the coach wrong? not in my opinion he made the right choice based on the circumstances he was given. is it fair? No, so who's at fault? I say Mr. lee by allowing such a circumstance to occur, its his job as captain of the ship to make sure these things don't happen not create them. Mr. Lee you did not pick the staff either but you have to sign off on all decisions and im sure if something was wrong you have the power to correct it as president. Im sure Mr. Budgell and your son Mike have the required coaching experience and qualifications to coach at the elite level. The committee wouldn't appoint anyone to the staff that has little to no coaching experience at the Minor levels, would they? Did they? The rumours have already started that Mike will be a head coach in the program next year( so sign up for blizzard hockey and make sure you say hi to Mike and Jack) so he must have lots of coaching experience as a head coach at the minor level, doesn't he? As for private hockey, let me ask Mr. lee and Mr. Pearcey this, how many kids are in each one of your groups? What qualification do you staff have? You probably wont answer it because it will look bad. So I will as my son has done both, 30 plus kids in each group from what I have seen and counted. 1 qualified coach and a bunch of teenagers. Major Midget and Major junior hockey players, all great kids I should add and players too. But they aren't coaches they are still kids for gods sake. Imagine if when we went to school to learn math for example and all the teacher did was sit at his desk with no corrections of our mistakes. We would have lots of scratches on lots pages but what would we have learned? how long would it take to learn this way? Doesn't sound like much of a hockey school to me anymore and if I had my time back I would of considered this before I gave you thousands of dollars to teach my son. Xtreme hockey and blizzard hockey give private hockey a bad name. There are good guys out their doing good things but these two men are certainly not amongst them So who will stand up to the King? No one! That's the saddest part and the real tragedy is that no one will stand up for the children who love our nations game so much and deserve a fair and equal playing field to compete for a chance to represent their province. Disappointed Mother and hockey fan

  • Mr. Wannabe
    September 23, 2013 - 15:24

    What a load of blather from Randy Pearcey! It's almost comical. Randy, the local media darling, gets an audience with some poor sot at the Telegram, and pontificates how the establishment is out to get McKim? When (not if, but when) the tables are turned, McKim will do the same or worse to favor his paying customers. This has been going on for years and they're all at it.

  • Jim
    September 23, 2013 - 14:40

    Wow... it's not hard to see who has their kids in which of the hockey programs from these posts. I don't see it as sour grapes from Randy Pearcey. It makes sense, and others here have said the same thing. Take private hockey out of the decisions that influence minor hockey. Why even have the perception of conflict of interest? The fact is, the voting system for board/director positions at HNL is not as clean, cut and dry as you might think. Only certain people have status for voting, many of which are executive, and the story goes like this, "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". So I don't think it's as simple as Jack Lee would suggest in his comments. Have a look at the HNL policies on their website, I just did. Is everybody else pure white? You'd be naive to think they are. At some point, the influence of their private hockey lives has had to have an influence on their decisions. That's why there should be no person with potential conflict of interest put in these positions. Certainly there are a couple people out there that know a thing or two about hockey? Take all the potential for conflict out.... Jim

  • Tony Hurley
    September 23, 2013 - 11:28

    I would suggest that this only the tip of the iceberg . There is probably a great deal of collusion within minor circles, especially when it comes to St. John's Minor Hockey. There are players playing with associations that are outside their boundaries, and there are others that are not allowed to. Then, you have HL denying that this exists and refusing other children a game of hockey because they will not step in and mediate or overrule a decision at the association level. This is totally ridiculous and a case in point is my 10 year old grandson who is not playing minor this year ( HIS CHOICE ) because of how he was treated last year. The Caps will register him, but the Celtics have refused to release him. Is this type of decision about what is best for the child or is it more inline with your article and the inner workings of the POWER PEOPLE within HL and the ASSOCIATIONS? This kind of behaviour has to be stopped and people in positions of authority MUST do their jobs. They have forgotten the goals and purposes of Minor Hockey and why they are in these positions. When no one in HL will take an interest in a !0 year old, then what does this tell you about how Minor Hockey is being run in NL? Yet, there very willing to accept you into their PAID PROGRAMS. Doesn't all of this smell to you ? I think the WHO YOU KNOW SYSTEM is well entrenched, don't you?

  • JC
    September 23, 2013 - 10:55

    This goes on all across the island. Jack Lee or not the matter of the fact is minor hockey is all about who you know.

  • Willy
    September 23, 2013 - 07:44

    I don't think any of these guys should be coaching provincial teams or AAA hockey. Jack says he is not going to influence a committee of five people but that is exactly what goes on and he has input on player selection for provincial teams. Having Bray coaching these teams is good for business, just go out and see who attends the camps. This is a total conflict of interest and needs to be stopped not saying they are bad guys but you can't have total control over provincial hockey and run a business with the same players attending both. Get some independent coaches in there and show some integrity HNL.

  • Stan's buddy
    September 22, 2013 - 20:35

    Stan's got it right! Sour grapes!! AM is not a qualified coach to be on the bench. When provincials roll around and he is scrambling to find a coach with the proper credentials to be on the bench with his AA team- there is something wrong with that! This is not about private hockey- this is about qualified coaches working with our kids on the ice. AM definitely needs to take a look in the mirror...have a look at the rosters of some of the teams he has coached. You would be hard pressed to find kids from any other private hockey school on his team.... need to have an X on your back to make it with him. If anyone knows Wally Bray- he is picking a team to win! He doesn't care where you are from, whose private hockey school you attend or how much money you have! He picks the best kids and makes a team to win! Some people need to get their heads out of their butts! Reality checks are definitely needed!!

  • Disgusted
    September 22, 2013 - 20:01

    As president of HNL, Jack has access to the mailing list of every minor hockey team in this province at his disposal. That definitely puts him at an unfair advantage. Once Jack became president of HNL, Jack Lee Hockey Schools started popping up all over the island. He even booked ice time in Gander under HNL for his private hockey school - I think that would be considered conflict of interest? Wally Bray is Jack's partner, Technical Director of St. John's Minor, Coach of Provincial teams and apparently the only person who can get ice time whenever he wants at Twin Rinks - I can see the boys at Extreme Hockey having lots of ice time- they own a rink! Jack and Wally don't. How do they manage to get all of their ice time? Maybe Wally can get it under his position as Technical Director the Technical Director - another conflict of interest maybe? Congratulations to the parent who wrote the letter and to Ken Oliver for digging into this story.....there is still a lot more dirt to uncover yet.

  • Mr.Sanity
    September 22, 2013 - 19:56

    Mckim's probably worried Wally might not play his son on the top line and every minute of every power play at the U14 Atlantic's. I just don't get parent coaches who insist on coaching every team their son ever plays on - that doesn't end well. A lot of this kids are going to turn their back on the game as soon as they get old enough to tell their parents where to stuff it! Too much focus on hockey hockey hockey from ages as young as 8 or 10 and up... way too early to be dedicating so much time to a single activity - where's the fun in that? Let the kids do something else - there's plenty of time when they turn 15 or 16 for them to start focusing on hockey more seriously if *they* still have the interest by then.

  • Darrell
    September 22, 2013 - 10:23

    I think if Jack Lee, Pearcey, McKim, Sullivan and Yetman were concerned about developing players, maybe they charge the kids less or donate their HUGE profits to kids who can't afford to play minor hockey. Don't hold your breath, all of these guys are into this stuff for one reason....money.

  • Hockey Parent speaking from experience
    September 22, 2013 - 09:09

    STAN said it all in a nutshell. I too think Xtreme is sour grapes. The picking of the provincial teams were hand picked long ever before Jack Lee was president. As for parents with money, that's been going on for years, if you got the bucks your kid can play. Wally Bray will pick a winning team, he doesn't give a rats ass who your parents are, not so sure about Xtreme and Mr. Hallaron, they are influenced by parents and the almighty $$$$.

  • TMI
    September 22, 2013 - 08:29

    It's about time RP and McKim turn the mirror around. They can't have it both ways. Can't cry foul about Jack Lee's conflict and pick your minor hockey teams (McKim) with all the kids from your private program. McKim surrounds himself with players/parents who will not question his decisions. Napoleon complex! Look at the roster of his last 2 AA teams...look at the roster of the last AAA PeeWee team for St. John's. all have x-hockey written all over them. Give me a break people. Private programs and their owners should not be involved in minor hockey at all. This is not a Blizzard Dogs issue. RP and McKim should be careful what they wish for.

    • Diane
      September 22, 2013 - 20:04

      Well, I have three kids that all play hockey. One now that is in second year atom. Myself and my husband are hard workers and don't have anything "EXTRA " . If my kid gets on an all star team it's because he loves hockey and is a very hard worker. He's not naturally talented be again a very hard worker!! We have dealt with X treme and Blizzards dogs!! I've had no trouble with either ! I've found that both are respectful of my children and that's what matters to me.Having said that my daughter has a big crush on Wally Bray and he on her!! It's all about the kids people!! Try not to forget that!! Love easy going mom!!!

  • Stan
    September 22, 2013 - 00:56

    Mckim played a bit of semi pro and is still trying to live off that little stint. Absolutely no other possible humanly marketable skill or intelligence. Halloran coached AAA last winter with McKim texting him line changes from the hockey moms seats. . Sour grapes on the hands of the xboys. Too many dreamers in that crew to expect any common sense. Has anyone asked McKim how far along he is in his coaches certification? Half decent player does not equate to good coach. Go do your certifications and then talk the talk! Stop degrading others to get your buddy's kid on the U14 team.

  • Clayton
    September 21, 2013 - 14:51

    Go see Jack's house and you will understand how much he made from his hockey schools. He certainly didn't buy this house from his stint driving a school bus.

  • Gary
    September 21, 2013 - 13:43

    Wanna see how much Jack made off the backs of parents......go see his house in the Goulds. He didn't build that driving a school bus.

  • Jonny
    September 21, 2013 - 11:51

    To make matters worse, the son Mike referenced in the article is regularly "chosen" to attend national clinics (all expenses paid).

  • Wayne
    September 21, 2013 - 09:13

    Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me randy!

  • Denise
    September 21, 2013 - 08:16

    I know for a fact, that the bias is there, it happened to us. Parents came to us about the selection, that hurt the team, but there was nothing we could do. We didn't spend the money to support the coaches,our child had the better player but we all have to be honest....that money talks in a lot of situations. But I didn't cave to their crap!!!!

  • JP
    September 21, 2013 - 06:24

    Does Mr. Jack Lee think we've all just fallen off the turnip truck? BLATANT Conflict of Interest here! And just in case anyone is wondering, my children are involved in other types of sporting activities because the attitude and behaviours of Mr. Lee are evident in a lot of coaches and parents! There's little tolerance in minor hockey now for the child who attends for exercise/team activities if they aren't trying for a professional league!