Wallaceburg Lakers goalie Patrick Timpany follows a shot during their game with the Amherstburg Integrity Admirals at Lanspeary Park, Windsor, January 12, 2019. Photo courtesy of Amherstburg Integrity Admirals/Twitter.

Lakers’ owner considering legal action against other GMs

A couple of Junior C general managers could be facing legal ramifications after allegedly leaking information about a potential move for the Wallaceburg Lakers.

Ken Shine became majority owner, general manager, and coach of the hockey club in 2018 and said he may seek legal action against three Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL) general managers after information was leaked to local media after a meeting last week. According to Shine, everything said in the meeting was confidential, where he speculated about moving the team.

Shine said the leaked information has put him and the organization in a bind with the community.

“It’s jeopardized our relationship with the fans, volunteers, players, and basically sponsorship dollars in Wallaceburg,” Shine said. “It has burned a lot of bridges with the people of Wallaceburg. It was all over social media after that meeting. There were a lot of accusations and claims. Most of the stuff I am reading is not good and is pushing blame onto ownership… I’m not sure we can just go back and operate the hockey club and get fans out to support us.”

Shine said he is in conversation with the league’s convenor, who is going over the constitution to figure out what the proper course of action is. The Lakers owner wants the culprits removed from future meetings and boards for violating confidentiality clauses.

“I have sought legal action but I am not sure where I am headed with it against the three individuals,” Shine said. “One for comments in the paper that were made long before this was even brought up to the OHA, then the two that leaked [information] for defamation of character. We will wait to see what happens when the OHA makes their decision and if they say it is tainted in any way and the Lakers are not able to run as a hockey program next year, I will decide at that time whether or not I will pursue legal actions.”

Shine added he was really disappointed the information leaked because he hadn’t filed the paperwork with the OHA to move yet. The owner doesn’t think the relationship with the community of Wallaceburg is salvageable now.

“Nobody stepped forward and said ‘let’s help out the Lakers,’ but now that there’s a possibility of the Lakers moving everybody is up in arms and all of the sudden it’s their team and their community team,” Shine said. “It was never our intention to take it away. I think as an ownership group, we’d have to get together and see if it is viable to even try to operate next year.”

Shine said if the Lakers do not get approved to move for next season, they might take the year off. The owner added he understands the team has struggled competitively, only winning four games over the last three years, and admitted his plan was to do a full rebuild. He added it was getting really hard to recruit players with the losing stigma surrounding the team.

Shine said he has been in the “hockey world” for over 30 years and while has the connections to bring talent in, the players simply do not want to be associated with the Lakers.

“It’s easier for me to bring in a player for Tecumseh, Harrow or Lakeshore to play in Wallaceburg than it is for me to get kids that live in Wallaceburg to come and play for us,” Shine said. “We had a 16-year-old who we offered a spot too who played in Chatham and he flat out told us that he would never play for the Wallaceburg organization because they were a bunch of losers. We had another boy from Wallaceburg we had the opportunity to get in a trade, but he did not want to play for the Wallaceburg Lakers.”

Shine added players think that if they play in Wallaceburg, they will lose all the time because of past records and don’t see what ownership is trying to create in the future. He said there is a big problem when teams can’t recruit players from “their own backyard.” The owner added it would be nice for the Lakers to have their own dressing room as well. He said there is a $1.3 million renovation being done to the Wallaceburg Memorial Arena with four new dressing rooms being added and the Lakers weren’t approached about getting their own space.

“We have a decent room but only because the Junior B lacrosse team spent a bunch of money to fix that room up and are gracious enough to share it with the Lakers,” Shine said. “There’s a lot of stuff people don’t know that happens behind the scenes and when you don’t have those things, it is pretty hard to bring players in.”

Shine said he is pretty proficient in the business world and has a good sense that when something isn’t working out. According to the owner, there are four banners hanging in the rafters in 47 years of operation, which he doesn’t consider as a success. Shine said a change of venue could help change the stigma surrounding the organization and help with the recruiting process.

“A totally new name and a totally new culture, being centrally located by population and I am talking about Tilbury,” Shine said. “If you get closer to metropolises, all of the sudden you have 400,000 people to draw from. If I had to pick an ideal location, Tilbury would probably be it.”

Shine said the geographical location of Tilbury is what makes it so attractive. According to the owner, its proximity to Wallaceburg, Chatham, Blenheim and Windsor would make it more appealing to players from those areas. Shine wanted to reiterate to the community of Wallaceburg that it wasn’t his intention to move the team when he became majority owner. Shine said he wanted to rebuild the franchise but the leaked information has put him and the other owners in a tough sport where moving seems to be the only option.

The OHA was approached by Blackburn News via email but declined comment.