Taber Recreation Board passed unanimously a motion that if a functioning and approved 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament Committee with established duties can be submitted to town administration by Saturday, the tournament would be allowed to continue in 2014 on a one-year trial basis. An evaluation process will be undertaken by town staff, administration, and tournament organizers and participants, and Taber Police Service, to see if the tournament will be allowed to continue at a later date. Tournament organizers must contract an independent group to manage security for the beer gardens in accordance with the AGCL requirements and town policies in which security will be easily recognizable by staff and participants. Also to provide proof of comprehensive general liability insurance of no less than $2 million. Tournament organizers must ensure adherence to provincial liquor laws and respectful treatment of town staff and prevention of damage to town property.
Director of Community Services Rob Cressman informed tournament organizer Kyle Sargeant on Dec. 20, 2013, his request for an ice extension for the 4-on-4 for March 28-30 had been denied stemming from problems that arose from the tournament in 2013, in which Sargeant filed an official appeal of the decision to the recreation board in mid-January.
Sargeant was on hand to present his appeal at the recreation board’s Jan. 30 meeting with support by many seated in the gallery of the Green Room of the Taber Community Centre.
Sargeant told of the history of the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament which has been running since 2004 in which the format has grown over the years.
“It brings back a lot of people to the community. The tournament hosts 16 teams with 13 people per team where that’s about 200 hockey players and with that I’d say about 500 people come into the town,” said Sargeant. He addressed the concerns by town administration that there was too much emphasis on alcohol consumption for the event which led to problems outlined later on in the appeal process.
“The emphasis on alcohol is in the beer gardens. The beer gardens itself follows provincial legislation. That being said, the liquor that was going on outside in the parking lot, is not from the beer gardens. It was BYOB (bring your own booze),” said Sargeant. “That being said, I am not going to sit here and try and convince you this is not our fault. The hockey players and everyone involved, we screwed up by not supporting our beer gardens and that’s why we are here.”
Nevertheless, Sargeant felt fingers were being pointed at organizers for actions that were done outside of tournament parametres in the parking lot.
“There are policies and protocol the town needs to follow like a Friday night Golden Suns game or whatever, the swimming pool or any town facility, there’s protocol that should be followed where those employees go over and enforce those rules,” said Sargeant. “If there is a parent on a Friday night that is abusing the town employees, that protocol should be calling the town police and they step in and enforce those rules. It was brought to my attention after the tournament that one of the town staff members was verbally abused and harassed, and I respect the facilities that were being given to put on the tournament and I respect the people doing the work. If I had been addressed right then and there we could have taken care of it.”
Calls to police concerning open alcohol being consumed in public places and out in the parking lot from the tournament in 2013 came from himself and John Zsednai, claimed Sargeant.
“We were not emphasizing drinking in the hallways, in the bleachers and in the parking lot. We had our liquor licence and we wanted them in the beer gardens,” said Sargeant.
“I know you can’t rely on town police stepping in every time, but I feel if you issue a few couple hundred dollar tickets that will go away.”
Sargeant had in hand a written petition of over 50 businesses in support of the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament.
One of those was the Oilmen’s Club in which co-owner Scott Blanchard offered his support personally at the recreation board meeting. Helping sponsor the tournament since its first year, in which a cabaret is held at the bar.
“The reason why I believe outside alcohol has been excessive the last two years has been weather related, you look at the dates for the last two years and it’s been in the mid-teens both days,” said Blanchard. “I want to get involved in this and help Kyle because not only do I think it’s a good weekend for my business, but the Town of Taber as well. It is this town I have watched over the years struggle with businesses closing and for a lack of choice of better words, has become a bedroom community.”
Doing some math and talking to other businesses in the community including hotels, Blanchard estimates the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament draws between $70,000 to $80,000 in income to the town.
“These are not small dollars,” said Blanchard.
Sargeant pointed to various other events like Cornfest, the demolition derby, and outdoor rodeo that have beer gardens , and it’s a matter of town following protocol if any other similar event gets out of control as well with consumption outside of licensed premises on town property.
Having more organization with the hockey tournament committee, and increasing communication with the police and town employees should curtail the problems according to Sargeant.
Cressman applauded the interest shown in the 4-on-4 Tournament given the number of people in the gallery in the Green Room of the Taber Community Centre. Cressman listed a number of events that happened at last year’s 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament which led to administration initially denying ice time to the tournament for 2014 which is approximately a break-even proposition given revenue and expenses involved in the tournament according to Cressman.
Cressman added there were around a dozen incidences that concerned town staff who worked through the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament.
“Staff witnessed on four occasions people purchasing beer from the beer gardens who immediately walked out of the small ice arena into the small ice lobby and to the large ice spectator area, into the hallway and into the dressing rooms,” said Cressman. “Arena staff approached beer garden sales people and reported it and their reaction seemed dismissive and it didn’t appear any action was taken.”
Cressman further noted doors to the alcohol-licensed premises were left propped open, which is against licensing provisions according to Cressman. Several incidences involved town staff confronting people who had alcohol outside the licensed premises who were again dismissed with some town staff being verbally abused. Observations also included cases of beer being in the Taber Arena dressing rooms along with two people witnessed carrying a large cooler into the small ice arena lobby.
“There was a Texas Mickey of Jack Daniels was promoted at centre ice during the event and promoted as a prize for the shoot-out competition. Arena staff witnessed the prize winner with the prize open and consuming it in the dressing room, hallways, spectator area and lobby,” said Cressman. “Their assessment was the licensed premise was there was limited and insufficient security. There appears to be a broad sense and feeling of entitlement among some of the event participants.”
As staff was attempting various ice maintenance tasks, players would regularly skate around on the ice, shooting pucks. At one time, an operator stopped a puck from entering the Zamboni’s conditioner.
“It had the potential to cause damage to the equipment and affected the ongoing tournament,” said Cressman. “And finally there was a fight that was observed between two players immediately after the shoot-out on the Friday night. I guess there could be debate and discussion on the validity and truthfulness of our employees. I will not offer anything other than we support our employees and we expect them to be truthful. It is when that alcohol consumption extends beyond that into the dressing room, into the spectator area and outside, we have an obligation s staff of the town to just put our hands up and say enough is enough.”
Cressman voiced administration concerns over liability issues though the reckless use of alcohol which spearheaded the initial denial of extended the ice at the Taber Arena for the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament.
With the 4-on-4 Hockey Tournament now a go for 2014 on a trial basis, organizers and police foreshadowed tolerance levels will not be as forgiving as years past.
“Our interests are in public safety and no one got hurt (in 2013). He (Kyle) needs more staff, he know that and he’s already said it,” said Alf Rudd, police chief for Taber Police Service. “I hear his message loud and clear about writing tickets and we will oblige if need be.”