Editor in Chief
According to a league official, the Minnesota Junior Hockey League (MnJHL) held a hearing regarding the arrest and court appearances of two players of the Illiana Blackbirds. This hearing takes place before the start of the league Final Four in Oregon, Wisc..
MnJHL President Ralph Hayne said that a meeting took place with him, other MnJHL board members and Blackbirds' Owner, General Manager and Co-Coach Reid Simpson this morning.
"We had a hearing this morning that myself and several officers with the coach and general manager. We talked about an hour and a half," Hayne said.
According to MnJHL Commisioner Mike Staloch the league is "working on" an official press release, but had no further comment.
Two stories published earlier today, one on JuniorHockey.com and the other on The Junior Hockey News, led to the attention of the arrest.
According to The Junior Hockey News, goaltender Konstatin Shipunov and forward Chad Miller were charged with possession of heroin. The blog-style piece went on to say that their first court appearances were in Cook County, Illinois on March 13 for the February incident.
JuniorHockey.com only alluded to the involvement as part of a larger report. No names or players, teams or even the league were mentioned, just a transcript of emails between JuniorHockey.com Owner Stephen Heisler and the unnamed league president. The email accused Heisler of being the "cop, judge and jury".
Hayne did confirm that it was him in the email exchange, which also corroborates the 4 p.m. time on March 20 that the league became aware of the incident. According to Hayne, the response was to the fifth email in a 48-hour span.
"I was tired of dealing with him," Hayne said. "We're willing to work with the people who want to talk about this. We found out at 4 p.m. and yesterday and had a hearing about it today."
Shipunov and Miller are both foreign nationals in the United States on a visitor's visa, according to The Junior Hockey News. On the Illiana Blackbirds website, Shipunov is from Riga, Latvia and Miller is from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada. Miller leads the team in assists and is the second on for both goals and points. Shipunov has a 14-6 record and .906 save percentage. Both players have played in the league playoffs.
Illiana and MQT were the top two teams in the Great Lakes Division this season. The Blackbirds ended the Royales 26-game winning streak in the first half of the season and were the first divisional opponent to beat MQT. The two teams averaged over 50 minutes of penalties per game combined in their six games this year.
If the Blackbirds defeat the Wisconsin Dells Ducks and the Royales defeat the Hudson Crusaders, Illiana and MQT would face each other in the MnJHL championship game.
The Junior Hockey News did not post the court documents online. At time of publication, MQT Social Scene had no response from the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
Cook County is on the other side of the Indiana-Illinois border from Lake County, Indiana. The Midwest Training and Ice Center where the Blackbirds play is less than half a mile away from the state line.
Brice Burge is the Editor in Chief of MQTSocialScene.com. He can be reached at BriceMQT@gmail.com.