A bizarre melee broke out between players and fans Saturday in Hamilton, Ontario, as the Hamilton Hurricanes hosted the Montreal-based St. Leonard Cougars in a college-age junior league club game.
In the final moments of the Ontario Football Conference playoff game, up to 20 St. Leonard players were seen on video attacking fans in the stands at Ivor Wynne stadium.
Raw, unaired footage of the violence caught on camera by a local cable TV station shows St. Leonard players climb into the stands behind their bench and battle with Hurricane fans in a vicious and protracted melee in the dying seconds of Saturday night’s Ontario Football Conference semifinal playoff game.
At one point, a player in a Cougars jersey smashes a black plastic milk crate down onto the head of a fan. Moments later, groups of players swarm other spectators. Fans fight back and gang up on one player, who gets away by pulling out of his football jersey.
In one struggling, swinging knot, a Cougars player delivers a devastating blow that knocks a fan out cold. Seconds later, the cameras catch a Cougar raise his cleated foot and stomp down full force on a downed fan.
With the appalling scene caught on video, it isn’t unreasonable to think that some of the players could be facing criminal charges. But for now, the Hamilton Police is doing its best to avoid charging the St. Leonard players with anything.
Hamilton Detective Sergeant Glenn Bullock:
“We are currently not actively investigating any offences. We did make contact with one particular person who was identified as being injured as a result of the fight after the game in the stands. That person has not registered a formal complaint with police.
“Yes, there was a disturbance in the stands, and, yes, the two teams playing on the field did become involved somehow, but in terms of the depth of criminality, it’s not to any great degree … that we are aware of.
“There were no serious injuries that we are aware of.”
That doesn’t mean that St. Leonard is completely in the clear, as Hamilton Police reserve the right to reopen the case if a formal complaint against the players is lodged. But it is rather astonishing that absolutely nothing may come from the actions of St. Leonard players.
So why are the cops taking such a hands-off approach?
1) The St. Leonard players, who are French-Canadian, were reportedly subject to racist heckling from the crowd.
2) The relationship between Quebec and the rest of Anglo Canada is an extremely sensitive one. If Hamilton Police were to pursue charges against the Quebecois players, revelations of racist taunts from the stands would certainly surface.
To Quebecois, the racist taunts coming from the Hamilton fans are no different than if members of an all black football team was called the n-word from the stands. Don’t underestimate how big this story could become if more details about specific fan behavior came to light.
As for the Ontario Football Conference, league officials claim they will sanction St. Leonard in some manner after their investigation into the incident is complete. The delay on such a decision is likely based on the fact that the season is now over for the Cougars - giving the league more time to explore exactly what precipitated the melee.