07/19/2012 11:45 EDT | Updated 09/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Suspension overturned for coach who let players study

A junior hockey coach who allowed his players to study for exams instead of attending the opening ceremony of a tournament has had his suspension overturned.

Brian Cranford is coach of the Mount Pearl Junior Blades team. Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador slapped him with a one-year ban last month.

But Hockey Canada, in a letter dated Thursday, reversed that decision.

"In the interests of fairness, the [appeals committee] has determined that the decision to suspend the appellant should be overturned and, as such, the appellant’s suspension shall be lifted, effective immediately," the letter noted.

Hockey Canada's national appeals committee reviewed the matter, and concluded there is "no dispute" that Cranford breached the tournament regulations.

But the committee said the punishment for that absence was specified in the rules — the loss of the team's performance bond and per diems.

Hockey Canada concluded that "it would be unreasonable to apply additional discipline," given the fact that the penalty to be meted out was actually in writing.

"Had HNL wished to reserve the right to suspend the appellant, it should have included wording to that effect in ... the regulations, so that anyone who was considering failing to appear at the opening ceremonies and banquet would have been fully aware of the consequences of taking that action," the letter, written by appeals committee chairman Allan Matthews, noted.

International attention

Cranford's suspension generated international attention when it first hit the news in June. The team was also slapped with a $2,000 fine.

At the time, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador president Jack Lee defended the decision, saying the rules were clear — teams in the tournament had to be there from start to finish.

But Cranford — who actually received an award from Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador last year — said it was hard enough getting his players out for the games, never mind the opening ceremonies, because the tournament fell right in the middle of university exams.

"These are junior kids, they’re 18, 19, 20 years old,” Cranford told CBC News in June. “Because of our schedule, we had real issues trying to get a team iced for every game."

Cranford hired prominent St. John's criminal defence attorney Bob Simmonds to handle his appeal.