THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO - Livid parents of Canadian hockey players who paid big bucks for a chance to showcase their skills in Europe are levelling accusations that their sons were played while police investigate whether the debacle constitutes fraud.
Sixty young men, mostly from Ontario, flew to France early this month with high hopes, expectations and helmets as they prepared to dazzle professional scouts that they believed might be handing out hockey careers or scholarships.
But when their buses pulled up at the hockey arena, there were no international teams, no scouts and no tournament.
Peel Region police, west of Toronto, are now collecting all contracts signed by the boys as they track down the trip organizers - who allegedly made the big promises - and will put them side by side to determine if the issue is civil or criminal.
"Either way, we were all misled," alleged Jordan Lass, 17, of Kitchener, Ont., who's still angry that he missed his grandfather's funeral to attend what he thought was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"Especially when you're doing it to young people like us, how low can you get? Especially with guys our age paying out of their own money."
George Goltsis, whose 16-year-old son participated, alleged the ordeal was "all lies."
"It's really fishy here, nothing was done properly," he said of the $3,500-per-player trip.
"I'm not concerned about my money, I'm concerned about this not happening to (anyone) else. I want public awareness of this so someone else doesn't have to go through the same crap my son did."
Owners of Ontario Central Scouting, the unsanctioned company that organized the trip, haven't made any statements since the fiasco became public.
An explanation has been offered by its head coach and director of hockey operations - that the event was cancelled after the International Ice Hockey Association and French Ice Hockey Federation banned their own teams from participating.
"This would have been pertinent information for OCS hockey to have, but, for whatever reasons, nobody had the courtesy to send off this information to let people know what was going on," said Victor Criscuolo.
He was unable to resolve the situation because he only discovered the turn of events upon arriving at the rink, Criscuolo said. He added that he's been in contact with the company's lawyer but hasn't heard from the man - known only as "Francis," even to him - who recruited and hired him for the job.
Hockey Canada, which sanctions such events, contacted both federations several times with concerns about OCS starting in May, said spokesman Glen McCurdie. Not knowing who the players were it wasn't able to notify them and, also, didn't receive a response back from the federations.
"Beyond that, how that was communicated to the French federations teams or the tournament organizers, we're not privy to that," McCurdie said.
Investigators haven't drawn conclusions about who is at fault, said Const. Adam Minnion.