On Friday afternoon the Ontario Hockey League announced major sanctions against one of its top teams in recent years by fining the Windsor Spitfires $400,000 and stripping the team of five future draft picks, including three first-round selections and two second-round selections, for recruitment and player benefit violations.
In a statement released by the league, commissioner David Branch discussed the sanctions.
“In 2009 the Board of Governors of the Ontario Hockey League developed the OHL ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM which is designed to address and attempt to eliminate violations of the RULES and impose appropriate penalties if violations occur," said Branch. "The enforcement process is an integral part of the process to ensure integrity and fair play among the MEMBER TEAMS. One of the fundamental principles of the enforcement process is to ensure that those MEMBER TEAMS that are abiding by the rules are not disadvantaged by their commitment to compliance.
“The League conducted two separate investigations led by our Director of Security and Enforcement, and in considering all the facts, I was persuaded that the Windsor Spitfires Hockey Club violated the League's Player Benefit and Recruitment Rules and Policies. While the penalties may appear to be severe, the League and its Member Teams recognize for any such violations of our Recruitment / Benefit Rules and Policies, we must send a strong message to preserve the integrity of our League”
The league did not go into any details as to what the Spitfires did in terms of specific violations.
According to CBC in Canada it is the largest fine ever handed out by the league.
As a result of the sanctions, the Spitfires will lose first-round picks in the OHL priority selection process in 2013, 2014, and 2016, while the second-round picks will be taken away in 2015 and 2017.
In recent years the Spitfires have produced a number NHL players including Taylor Hall (the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft), Cam Fowler, Adam Henrique, Steve Downie, Josh Bailey, Ryan Ellis, Eric Wellwood, and Mike Weber.
Since the start of the 2007-08 season the Spitfires have won over 64 percent of their regular season games. That includes their OHL championship season in 2008-09 when they finished with a 57-10-1 record.