The Allan Cup was awarded on the weekend, but not without controversy and bitterness surrounding the Senior Men's championship of Canada held this year in Lloydminster.
Thunder Bay claims the bragging rights to Senior hockey for the year based on the Bombers 4-3 victory over Le sentinelles de Montgamy, but the on ice victory was overshadowed by some off ice controversy much of it from the mouth of Theo Fleury.
Fleury who was one of the recruits to the Horse Lake first nations team this year unloaded a lot of baggage at the organizers of the tourney, fans at the rink and the media as his Thunder squad found themselves on the outside looking in for the final game.
Fleury belittled the tournament, suggesting the only thing the people were there to see was him and his fellow players from Horse Lake. He trashed the tournament in the colorful way that only Fleury can, pointing fingers everywhere but back at him. He once again addressed the issue of his suspension from the NHL, attacking the league for its substance abuse program.
It's a replay of some of the past moments in Fleury's downward spiral from his days of NHL stardom. His attack on the Senior Championships however seemed a tad self serving, for there is some question as to his qualification for inclusion on a Senior roster. The tournament is designed for Amateur athletes and Fleury, Gino Odjick and other members of the Horse Lake roster somehow fell between the cracks no longer pros, but hardly amateurs.
The fact that his team was eliminated no doubt spurred his vitriolic outbreak, and as has been pointed out certainly detracts from his supposed position of role model for the youth of Horse Lake. And while some of his comments may have a sliver of resonance to them, for the most part they came across as the words and deeds of a petulant man steeped in far too much bitterness.
Senior Hockey has many questions to explore in the off season, The eventual winner Thunder Bay claimed the championship, all while playing only four games all year prior to the tournament. Stocked with former pros and University players it seems like a team put together much like the Horse Lake squad purely to win a tournament. There seems to be a world of difference between the Junior championship path and the Senior one. The Juniors earn their way to the Memorial Cup via a grueling number of elimination series, basically using the same players they have had all year. The Senior championship path seems by appearance to be a little easier to navigate with murky rules along the way.
The controversial wrap up to the Senior Hockey season leaves both tournament organizers and Hockey Canada with many issues to solve regarding the state of the Senior game. Apparently though Fleury has many more personal demons to exorcise as well.