For those of you who don’t know the background to this story let’s set the stage for some new found information.
Niagara Ice Dogs Co-Owner Bill Burke in 2016 had been found by the Ontario Hockey League to be making side deals with players (outside of their contracts) in order to recruit players to play for the Ice Dogs and not to leave for the NCAA. Burke was fined $125,000 and lost a draft pick after a short investigation by the OHL.
Skip forward to today, where after more allegation over the past 2 years have come forward and a thorough investigation had been done and the findings are saddening.
Found was more information on older cases and new cases altogether. Back in 2015, Zach Wilkie was a highly touted defensemen who was set to head to the NCAA but Niagara needed to catch a break. So they made a side deal with Jeff (Zach’ Father) and Zach that when his time was done in the OHL and he wouldn’t be eligible to play anymore that team would pay for him to go to college at a school of his choice. When Zach finished and emailed Mr.Burke to ask about the withstanding agreement Burke pretended as if it hadn’t happened.
In 2016, there was a young boy who had a choice between the NCAA or the OHL. Liam Ham was his name and the team entered into a deal – outside of his contract – to pay Mike Ham (Liam’s father) $2,000 cash a year so that his son would play in Niagara. Burke insisted that it was only inflation protection but the OHL found no evidence of this in emails and forms. Marty Williamson coach at the time of this whole fiasco and was fired right after that season, says he has documentation that shows a deal between Ham and himself. Williamson turned it over in the investigation and since then Burke has changed his story stating that he did on a “compassionate basis” as Mr. Ham was dealing with an illness.
This is just 2 of players that were seemingly offered side deals to join the Niagara Ice Dogs. The report says that there are at least several more European players who received the same offers from Mr. Burke.
Expect the OHL to have more sanctions put against Burke and the Niagara Ice Dogs, as the investigation continues into the rest of the recruitments stories.
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