The Windsor Spitfires were hit Friday with the stiffest penalty in Ontario Hockey League history for violating player benefit and recruitment rules.
The franchise was fined $400,000 and lost three first round draft picks (2013, 2014 and 2016) and two second round picks (2015, 2017) after the OHL’s enforcement program investigated the club for more than a year.
“I believe that one of the building blocks of our enforcement program is to ensure that we preserve the integrity of our league,” said OHL commissioner David Branch.
“It’s important to address any violation in a fashion that will clearly demonstrate to all our teams, players, fans and sponsors that this is not us.”
Branch would not provide any details about the two separate investigations conducted by the league, but did say more than one player was involved.
The league can fine clubs up to $250,000 and take away up to three draft picks per violation, according to Branch.
The OHL would not say if other member clubs were currently being investigated by enforcement program head Ken Miller. However, Miller did look into the Kitchener Rangers in wake of allegations that the team offered $200,000 to lure defenceman Jacob Trouba to the Aud.
While no formal complaint was lodged, the league was aware of the allegations made by a Michigan student newspaper last month.
The Rangers and Trouba family denied the report and the team has since launched a $1 million defamation lawsuit against the University of Michigan newspaper, the the writer of the article and anonymous source credited in the story.
Trouba, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick, is slated to attend Michigan in the fall on an athletic scholarship.
“As a league we were aware of it and as a league, our enforcement office was directed to investigate,” said Branch.“His findings were clear, that there was no violation by the Kitchener Rangers.”
Friday’s decision will not impede the Spitfires from applying to host the 2014 Memorial Cup. But the loss of draft picks will surely impact the club’s immediate future.