Coach Fired for Trying To Fix Game

Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) — An amateur hockey coach who instructed his 13-year-old goalie to allow a goal agreed to demands by parents and team directors that he quit.

The goalie, Jordan Barber, refused to follow his coach's orders, so the coach pulled him from the game in the closing seconds.

Officials said coach Mike McKenelry of the West Michigan Grizzlies wanted the Feb. 3 game to end in a tie to avoid meeting a tougher opponent in the next day's semifinals.

``What I saw was a thrown hockey game,'' tournament director Barb Issel said.

Barber would not do so. But with 10 seconds left, McKenelry pulled the team's only goalie and the Lansing Capitals tied the score. That prevented the team from winning the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association District 6 Bantam AA tournament game in Ann Arbor.

Capitals coach John Sztykiel said he was disgusted by the tainted tie.

``I told the kids, `You've been given a gift and slapped in the face at the same time,'' Sztykiel told The Detroit News. ``The biggest part of coaching is teaching kids how to become young men.''

McKenelry's father said Monday his son would not comment.

The Grizzlies and Capitals were two of nine teams in the tournament. They were vying for a chance to play for the state championship and a possible trip to the national youth hockey championship in Atlanta in April.

Barber said his coach pulled him aside before the game as the team was going to the locker room.

``He told me that if we were ahead by one goal, to let one go in with about 15 seconds left,'' Barber said. ``I didn't know what to say — I always play for the win.''

Barber's team led by a goal in the waning seconds. The Capitals pulled their goalie for a 6-on-5 attack.

``So they're pounding on me, but I'm just saving all of them,'' Barber said. ``Obviously, my coach sees I'm not going to let one in.

``Then with about 10 seconds left there's a face-off, and I see him waving and yelling at me to leave the net. I started off and I stopped — I did that about three times. I'm like, `What's happening? I'm not supposed to leave the net, or they're going to score. Finally, I just skated off. I was really depressed.''

Barber regrets that decision.

``I think I should have stayed in the net,'' he said. ``I shouldn't even have listened to the coach. I don't feel too good about myself for that.''