Photo: Walik/Getty Images
On the surface, it was just another week for the Clifton Park Dynamo Under-18 hockey team as the squad prepared to skate in the New York State Amateur Hockey Association tournament beginning Friday in Amherst.
Beneath the surface, the team was dealing with a stunning letter from the USA Hockey district registrar, received late last week, telling the Dynamo that they had been disqualified from the tournament on the grounds of using an ineligible player during the season.
The move was met with anger from those within the Dynamo program, along with parents and supporters who fired off a flurry of emails and phone calls while an appeal of the ruling was being considered.
In a decision received by the team late Wednesday afternoon, the move by the NYSAHA to disqualify the team was reversed and the Dynamo will indeed compete in the eight-team tournament.
During the tumultuous week, Dynamo coach Brad Shaver kept his team practicing with the hope it would get a favorable ruling.
“Last night (Tuesday) might have been the hardest practice we’ve had in two weeks and I did it on purpose,” Shaver said. “I told them, it is better to be disappointed than unprepared. I think a few of them were shocked at how hard we went. We just keep moving forward.”
Shaver isn’t sure how the distraction will affect his team when the puck drops Friday.
“I don’t know, I’d love to sit here and have everything be storybook, you go and you are galvanized, guys are amped up,” Shaver said. “How they perform will be based on how motivated they are. Preparation-wise, I can’t say this helped us.”
The source of the issue was the eligibility of Dynamo player Enrico Bozac, who was not listed on the official team roster submitted to USAH by the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline for eligibility for the state tournament, a deadline in place to make it impossible for teams to add elite players who have not played for the team all season.
Bozac’s omission from the roster was not disputed, but the Dynamo cited extreme circumstances in the clerical error as the team’s registrar who was charged with updating the roster was dealing with a major emergency personal health issue and unable to complete the task.
In the letter announcing the reversed decision, the NYSAHA stood by its initial ruling based on its rules, saying “the New York affiliate and New York District Registrar properly applied the rules in this matter” but, with a recommendation from USAH’s appeals committee to reverse the decision, changed the decision due to “an administrative error that was compounded by a health emergency of the program’s registrar.”
Bozac is eligible to play with his team.
Numerous phone calls to USAH president and director Joe Baudo and district registrar Tom Branden, the author of the original letter of disqualification, were not returned.
Once the error was discovered and Bozac was determined illegal, NYSAHA and North Section President and Executive Board of Directors member Rusty Gallagher, who was not part of the appeals committee, provided further documentation on behalf of the Dynamo.
“At that point, I sent them a bunch of score sheets that showed that this wasn’t something that was an attempt to deceive, it was a clerical error based on extenuating circumstances,” Gallagher said. “I took score sheets from four or five months to show that Bozac was on there and he’d registered with the USPHL (United State Premier Hockey League).”
All players must register with their local program, and subsequently be “claimed” by that team, along with registering with the USPHL (the league the Dynamo competes in) and USA Hockey but, according to Gallagher, Bozac never registered in Clifton Park, a fact cited in the letter of disqualification sent by Branden.
“He came in from Michigan, he sent in his USA Hockey registration,” Gallagher said. “He was asked to register with Clifton Park Youth Hockey and then he had to register with the USPHL but, he never registered with Clifton Park Youth Hockey so there was never an Enrico Bozac in the system. Because he didn’t register, he didn’t exist.”
Bozac has played in 44 games for the Dynamo this season, scoring seven goals and dishing out 19 assists.
Sean Martin, a local freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to the Times Union