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Mitchell (S.D.) hockey teams banned from postseason play after locker room fight

MITCHELL, S.D. - The Mitchell varsity and junior varsity boys hockey teams have been banned from postseason play this season following a state disciplinary meeting.

The decision was handed down late Thursday evening, Jan. 3, following a discussion by the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association’s disciplinary committee. The penalties are in response to a Dec. 21 locker room fight between two Mitchell hockey players that was recorded via cell phone by multiple teammates.

The video shows two players fighting while wearing helmets and gloves in an act that’s been called “locker boxing.”

Dan French, SDAHA league director, said the disciplinary committee had a two-hour meeting Thursday night to review the incident. He said 10 people voted on the new penalties set forth.

“We really worked together to come up with what we thought was a fair and equitable disciplinary action, that at the same time sets a precedent around the state that this type of activity is not going to be tolerated,” French said Friday morning, “and the policies in place by SafeSport need to be followed.”

French said the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association can appeal the state tournament ban to the SDAHA Board of Directors. He explained last week that the SDAHA follows USA Hockey’s SafeSport policy, which states each team is to have a locker room monitor. If that supervisor is not inside the locker room, they’re an arm’s length away from it, the policy says.

Mitchell varsity head coach Josh Engquist was not at practice the day of the fight. He has been suspended eight games by Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association. The assistant coaches were not in the locker room during the fight and have been suspended four games.

Mitchell police said a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old were involved in the incident. The 17-year-old is being processed in the juvenile court system. The Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association suspended that player for the entire season. The 15-year-old was hospitalized following the fight and was later released. Mitchell Skating and Hockey suspended him four games, but French said in addition to the postseason ban, multiple players received additional suspensions from the SDAHA.

SDAHA on Thursday night chose to suspend the other player involved in the fight for the entire season. French said that player is eligible to return to the team next year.

Eight other players have been suspended four games and eight more players suspended two games.

“This is some serious disciplinary action on a very serious matter,” French said. “There’s a reason these policies are in place, and it’s time for all associations to make sure they’re following them so we don’t have any repeat-type of activity in any of our locations across the state.”

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