Details emerge about Boxing Day event at Harbour Grace arena

Melissa Jenkins
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Unauthorized access of facility led to termination of employee, says mayor

Details of a controversial event held at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Boxing Day are beginning to emerge, and it appears the incident is what led to the termination of a longtime arena employee.

S. W. Moores Memorial Arena, Harbour Grace

Details of a controversial event held at S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Boxing Day are beginning to emerge, and it appears the incident is what led to the termination of a longtime arena employee.

A group of roughly three-dozen people played hockey at the arena for seven-and-a-half hours on Dec. 26. The holiday hockey party included food, beer and skating.

The practice is a longstanding tradition, dating back some two decades, and sources say the town never charged for the event.

But this year’s gathering stirred up a host of issues, and ended with the firing of one unionized employee, and the issuance of an apology by the group using the rink.

It was also followed by the resignation of two newly hired senior municipal employees, including the arena manager. However, it has not been confirmed whether the incident is related to the resignations, since members of council have refused to discuss details of the departures. The two former employees have also declined comment.


No formal booking

Here’s what’s been learned.

Mayor Terry Barnes asserted Feb. 4 there was nothing booked for the stadium Dec. 26, although that was debated by the participating group, who loosely call themselves the “Boxing Day Group.”

One of the users, who asked not to be identified, stated stadium officials initially contacted them with information on changes to their annual event.

“They contacted us regarding (the skate) in early December,” the user explained. “They called us and said, ‘you guys have to do it a bit different this year.’”

The changes included formally renting and paying for the rink. The user said the group agreed, and assumed the conversation was sufficient notice of confirmation.

But when Boxing Day arrived, there was no rink attendant to let them in.

“We thought the rink attendant was just running late,” the user continued.

One of the members made a call, and the terminated employee showed up to let them in, something Mayor Barnes said should not have happened.

“(He) was an employee who was off on leave, who wasn’t supposed to be in the stadium, or give access to the stadium,” Barnes explained.

It was Dec. 27 before Barnes and stadium management knew the event had taken place, and the group was contacted.

“We thought this year we were doing it by the wishes of management, the way they wanted it done,” the user said. “It was clear soon after it was certainly not the case.”

Barnes confirmed the RCMP was contacted, but charges were not laid.

“Breaking and entering is hard to charge anyone with when a town employee lets them in,” Barnes said.

There was also a lock broken on a dressing room door, but the group admitted fault and paid the damages.

The rental was also paid in full.

Town officials would not confirm, but The Compass has learned the total was around $1,500.


The aftermath

The user explained the group had been in contact with stadium management about concerns of unauthorized access.

“We had members from our group call rink management and really try to come to an agreement,” he explained. “It was miscommunication, and, from what I understand, everything was fine going forward.”

The employee was terminated once the information was revealed. Barnes said the employee admitted to letting the group in.

Sources say the union contract states an employee must first receive a verbal warning, then a written reprimand before they can be terminated. It is unknown if the employee had been disciplined previously.

The town and the union are currently going through lawyers about the termination, but Barnes confirmed the employee is “technically” still an employee of the town, but is not receiving a paycheque.

Organizations: Day Group, RCMP, The Compass

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Recent comments

  • Joe Blow
    February 07, 2014 - 14:15

    OMG!!! I just heard from a very reliable source that several years ago a certain group were allowed to use the stadium in the morning before school. Now as the users were mostly kids no alcohol or smoking took place!!! BUT CAN YOU IMAGINE ALL THE FREE ICETIME THESE KIDS MUST HAVE GOTTEN.......

  • Hockey Fan
    February 07, 2014 - 10:12

    A tradition of getting seven hours of free icetime on Boxing Day for 20 years??

  • Gee  Tee
    Gee Tee
    February 06, 2014 - 20:55

    It looks like the historic town of Hr. Grace will be in the history books again. Apparently, on Boxing Day the first successful human cloning took place at our stadium (it had to be since Mayor Barnes said he was not there) when a clone of Mayor Barnes was spotted at the venerable S.W. Moores Stadium. Should be another great season for tourism in Hr. Grace!

  • Boxing Day player
    February 06, 2014 - 19:59

    Every year we payed for the ice time including this year. Actually this year we only skated for 3.5 hours and payed for 7.5 hours. So don't worry tax payers we never robbed you. Also the boxing day tradition have been going on for 30 years why all the controversy this year? Looks like they wrong individual was hired to do the job. Also Ashley janes was not working when the Boxing Day event happend so the reason she quit was unrelated to this. Long live the tradition!

    • tradition over....
      February 07, 2014 - 19:29

      You say 30 years. Ira states its only 13.And states that it was a VERBAL agreement that you only pay the worker. So the tradition owes the town for 12 more years. And why are you not using your real name if your not ashamed of what you did. The guys who started this tradition should be mad that you destroyed the boxing day game. RIP TRADITION. THANKS BOXING DAY PLAYER.... and give the town 1500 x 12 = 18000$... HAVE A NICE DAY.

  • Concerned
    February 06, 2014 - 17:57

    This is so much to do with the people who think they are right and no one is like them, there are a lot of those people in this town, it's very sad!!! I bet I could name a good few of those men. I don't get how they can go on defending their actions. They got away for years with something that was wrong. What if someone fell and was injured, or what if there was a a tragedy, I bet the family would be looking for answers and looking for compensation. These men saying the likes of "if someone was hurt they would be on their own" is all fine but they wouldn't be on their own, family would be looking for answers, family would want to know why this was allowed to happen. These men paying an employee is absolutely absurd and that employee accepting knowing full well that the doors to the stadium were to be locked on Boxing Day is grounds for dismissal. It's the same as stealing from your employer in my opinion. To all the people commenting on this article, saying they think it was wrong the employee was let go, It's not!!! He was on leave at the time, there for should not have been near that stadium, automatic termination is a must!!! There are some things in your work life that there is no tolerance for and this was definitely one of them. He let those men in, and he allowed them to break property that belongs to the stadium and the town. They need to grow up and see what they did was wrong. What if this was another facility like a pool, a bunch going for a swim and someone drowned? Same principal, it's wrong on so many levels. These men technically stole from the town and the employees that let them in over the years are the accomplices. If this happens to be the reason these two women resigned I would imagine it had something to do with a few of these so called "tradition" boys trying to throw their weight around. Good for you ladies, not letting these people Bully you. I think it's time that former mayor Coombs make a statement about what he knew was going on for years, no one can tell me he didn't know and no one can tell me former councillor Bud Chafe didn't know. That whole council knew!!! This current council is cleaning up last council's garbage and all you people commenting in support of the "tradition" and in support of the employee need a lesson in what is right and what is wrong!!!

  • Ira Layden
    February 06, 2014 - 16:07

    yes there are two side to this story. what I have been told by 2 great sources is that there was SOME miscommunication. There was a verbal agreement from an old mayor 13 years ago that the players could use the rink on boxing day, and they would pay for the employee to come look after the rink and clean up. This was a tradition that lasted 13 years, no one asked for the rink on this day so it turned into a tradition. And all was Great. In the last few mths, new management (of the rink) did not want this to happen because of insurance purposes. The players (tradition) thought all was good to go and thought that there would be a employee there like in past years. When they got there, the doors were locked and the employee was called. he showed up ( or maybe a family member), the dressing room that was used for years was locked, and the lock was beat off the room (which was replaced). The management did not like this and this is where all the talk comes from. The new management felt betrayed by people behind the scene of the rink, and thought why do this job if people wont listen and follow the rules of the people putting them in place. The law was contacted and politics took over. It ends up that I know more people then you and u better drop the charges or else. Problem is, the town is ran by people that are not on the council, but the circle of friends that are around them. So a lot of these issues was caused by old council, and management, and the new council and management are dealing with it now.

  • We deserve to know the truth
    February 06, 2014 - 12:16

    The lack of training has nothing to do with anything. Hearing from people who know these two well educated females it sounds like they had too much knowledge and education to allow this to continue. If everyone who uses the stadium knew the policies and procedures they would have stepped in as well ... or not because it seems only certain people of hierarchy are able to victimize a public facility and I feel insulted that the town council did not take control of the situation and allowed a long time worker to be fired and two of the most educated females to dawn those two positions just to be bullied and forced to resign (if that was the reasoning, no one seems to know). If these posted comments are in fact somewhat true then shame on the council and especially the mayor for not having the guts to stand up to a tyrant, that call themselves the boxing day group and not having enough common curiosity to give a statement of what is going on.

  • taxpayer
    February 06, 2014 - 11:12

    If the town can only afford only one ice surface right now on the new arena then let's do it, the second surface can be added down the road. When the Bay Arena starts to crumble in 9 or 10 years, instead of the provincial government building a new arena inBay Roberts all it would have to do is put a second surface on the Hr. Grace arena at a much lower cost. The new arena with a walking track will give seniors a safe place to walk and socailize during the long winter months. The government is basically telling us that for every $1 we spend they will give us $4. It's time we give our heads a shake and realize that this is too good to pass up. If we blow this we'll be the laughing stock of the province. Our town desperately needs something to be proud of, let's put our differences aside and get this done.

  • citizen
    February 06, 2014 - 08:29

    Im sure the full story will come out, looks like he been fired unlawfully, rules werent followed, time for the town to come clean,

  • Fred
    February 06, 2014 - 06:35

    If these are the facts then for Gods sake let cooler heads prevail. Put this incident behind them. Give the employee back his job and don't ruin an annual tradition. Just get it right next year. Seems political correctness is run amock.

    • Sylvia J.
      February 06, 2014 - 21:57

      I agree with you Fred.

  • Warren Oates
    February 05, 2014 - 22:47

    And, 10's of millions of Dollars have been promised for a new stadium?? I hope it gets cancelled if these sorts of events happen.

  • The neighbours
    February 05, 2014 - 22:43

    In reference to the present municipal controversy, it resonates with a hum, similar to that of an intense game of freckles. Looks good! Smells great! Don't stop now! Anticipating more

  • The neighbours
    February 05, 2014 - 22:42

    In reference to the present municipal controversy, it resonates with a hum, similar to that of an intense game of freckles. Looks good! Smells great! Don't stop now! Anticipating more

  • Confused
    February 05, 2014 - 22:10

    This is ridiculous, if this has been going on for decades then someone should have known they would be there this Boxing Day as well! Nothing will be the same until Don Coombs is back in charge, the way it should be.

  • Sylvi J. Wilson
    February 05, 2014 - 20:45

    They were there for 7 1/2 hours and if they were NOT supposed to be there you would think SOMEONE would have noticed there presence during all that time. Doesn't sound to me like too many people were concerned about it.

  • Sylvi J. Wilson
    February 05, 2014 - 20:43

    This is a small town where sometimes verbal agreements are not uncommon for starters. Everything doesn't ALWAYS have to be on paper. Secondly, after almost 20 years of this practice, why is this group being charged the full $1,500?

    • Dude
      February 06, 2014 - 17:16

      why should they pay, because the stadium does not pay for itself.

  • The truth
    February 05, 2014 - 20:39

    The reason the young women quit their jobs abruptly was because they were thrown into positions without any training or what is expected of their respected positions. I don't like to point fingers but if there was some leadership in council they would still be working today. Immaturity of the girls and the way they handled situations were also a factor

    • Disagree
      February 06, 2014 - 11:52

      I completely disagree with anyone questioning the maturity of these ladies. If anything, it was the fact that they are too mature to be manipulated and probably didn't like the way council was dealing (or not dealing) with this situation. It is also unfortunate that council came out and made it seem like they left without notice, surely there must be proper documentation on file, can the residents request to see this? The only thing I agree with you on is that they didn't have the training for their respected positions, they must have missed the "Break the rules, let it slide, turn a blind eye" training session..... I attended the Tim Hortons family skate with my daughter, it was soo nice to see a community event like that! Not to mention the PR work that was being done to promote the stadium! Looks like some people in Harbour Grace are showing their true colors! Unfortunately, we elected them and now they have turned their backs to us!

  • Hiding Grace
    February 05, 2014 - 18:40

    Not so fast Mayor ROB FORD, Sorry Mayor Barnes. We're asking the wrong questions people, lets make him talk. 1-So you where not at the stadium that night talking to one of the players. People must be blind or losing there mind. 2- Where are the pictures that you/councillors took that night/next day(lol). You know the pictures that shows the damage, urine on the floor, Fecal in the toilets, beer bottles on the ice without a liquor licence(fine), smoking( 500$fine). Plus 7 1/2 hours at 150/h, 1500 $ fine does not seem to bad. 3- don't you have a list of names. I think someone ratted there buddies out. 4- Are those player going to be banned from the stadium, or suspended. 5- I heard there was threats, will I guess you know this. Are you going to release this. 6- Is there any councillors that have family members that played in this game, if so are they going to step down, like the councillors asked you to do. LIKE YOU SHOULD. The people of Harbour Grace know that most of this article is not true. We also know that we lost two GREAT WORKER's because you didn't fulfill your duties as Mayor. How are the people of HG suppose to believe this town can change when our mayor absent. Please do the people good for once and step down.

  • Joe
    February 05, 2014 - 17:24

    Isn't it funny how everyone wanted change in harbour grace I bet a lot of citizens would like to have don back in the chair now but guess what it's your own problem look who you guys put there , mr mahaney should go after them for back pay as well and who in the right mind would give harbour grace a new stadium ??? What a joke

  • Michelle
    February 05, 2014 - 15:44

    From the looks of things it was all a major mis communication around an event held annually. Maybe before jumping the gun to terminate employees, some retraining should happen. Are there details missing from this story? It seems a bit drastic to fire someone for that

  • Harbour Grace Citizen
    February 05, 2014 - 15:44

    My God!! Sure the boxing day skate has been going on in harbor grace for years as far as I knew!! Hard to imagine this leading to the resignation of the stadium manager. Seems like ice was rented and paid for by the group. Only shame here is someone loosing their job. Rink attendant must have been following past practice or under the assumption it was ok to let the group in.

  • Just Me
    February 05, 2014 - 15:12

    But the story of this event doesn't end there. Keep digging!