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Hockey dad mars playoff game

Use of laser pointer riles Winthrop foe, but result is upheld

Hockey dads, at least in stereotype, are a beleaguered lot. An incident this week is not likely to help their cause.

In a head-shaking display of parental misconduct, the father of a Winthrop High School hockey player shined a laser pointer on the ice at a girls playoff game Wednesday night, in a bizarre attempt to distract players on the opposing team, state hockey officials and fans say.

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Fans, coaches, and players noticed the green light bouncing around Larsen Rink in Winthrop, and officials halted play. The unidentified man, who had caused disruptions at previous Winthrop games and was sitting alone in the stands, was promptly kicked out of the rink and has been banned from all school events.

While the antics of overbearing sports parents are by now all too predictable, the ill-conceived attempt to intervene in the game itself seemed to cross a new threshold.

“No one’s heard of this one,’’ said Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the state. “It’s bizarre.’’

Yesterday, the MIAA upheld the result of the game - a 3-1 Winthrop win - over protests of Medway-Ashland, the losing side. Wetzel said the parent pointed the laser at the opposing players only for a brief time when the game was tied and that the stunt appeared to have no impact.

“He was removed right away,’’ he said. “It didn’t affect the play on the ice.’’

But the Medway-Ashland coach and fans at the game disputed the MIAA’s conclusions, and say they believe the laser clearly distracted their players.

Kurt Carter, Medway-Ashland’s coach, said the light bothered his goaltender in the minutes before Winthrop scored the tying goal.

“After they scored, our defensemen came over to tell me that our goaltender was complaining that bright lights were flashing in her eyes,’’ Carter said. “The whole thing is absolutely crazy.’’

He said his players began noticing the light immediately after they took a 1-0 lead, with about 13 minutes to go in the game. Carter said that while he did not notice the light, several of his players mentioned it when they returned to the bench after a shift.

Fans noticed it, too, and were yelling to get the officials’ attention, he said. Some fans even texted his phone in hope of alerting him to the distraction, Carter said.

Pam O’Sullivan, the mother of a Medway-Ashland player who attended the game, said the quarter-sized beam of light bounced quickly around the goal area and often came to rest right on the goalie’s mask.

“You could see the green flickering off the metal of her mask,’’ she said. “After we scored that first goal it really intensified. It was moving all over.’’

For a while, fans said they could not tell where the light was coming from, but eventually they noticed a man hiding behind a girder above where most of the fans were sitting. At one point, O’Sullivan said, the father of the Medway-Ashland goaltender yelled at the parent to stop, but was met with a smirk and a profanity.

She denounced the MIAA for effectively rewarding the actions of the Winthrop parent.

“It’s so fundamentally unfair,’’ she said. “I don’t know why we can’t play the game again or at least the third period.’’

Shortly after the tying goal, Carter called the officials over for an explanation and was told the person with the laser had been removed. Winthrop later scored to take the lead and then added an empty-net goal.

The loss ended the season for Carter’s team, which included five seniors.

“I’m disappointed that people had a chance to send the right message and failed to do so,’’ he said. “And I feel bad for all the girls involved, on both teams.’’

Winthrop school officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Wetzel said the MIAA based its decision on officials’ determination that the light had not influenced the game.

“There were no complaints raised during the game,’’ he said. “And once the game is over, we cannot and will not overturn an official’s decision.’’

Winthrop will play Braintree tonight at 6:30 in a Division 1 game at Larsen Rink.

Carter said he would have liked a chance to replay at least a portion of the game and said he likes to think he would not have accepted a win under such circumstances. He said he remains baffled by the acts of the parent, and feels terrible for his daughter.

He said he remains stunned that an adult would try to sway the outcome of a high school game.

“I guess I’m disappointed in human nature,’’ he said.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.
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