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GTHL bans flashing mother

Can't enter league arenas for a year
Woman apologizes for game antics

The Toronto Star, DONOVAN VINCENT, SPORTS REPORTER, Dec. 10, 2004.

It's an example of rink rage that has received nationwide publicity, and was even the butt of jokes on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few days ago.

But the Greater Toronto Hockey League sees no humour in the case of the Woodbridge hockey mom who lifted her blouse above her chest, exposed her bra, and shook her breasts from side to side while taunting parents of opposing players during a game in Mississauga between 11-year-olds.

The GTHL banned Sylvana Gatti for one year from all of its arenas.

The Nov. 29 incident at the Erin Mills Twin Arena happened while the woman was attending a match between her son's team, the York Toros, and the Mississauga Terriers, two Double-A level minor pee-wee teams. Her son's team won 4-0.

The woman appeared before a GTHL committee meeting Wednesday night, where she apologized for her behaviour before the league could get a full explanation from her as to exactly what prompted her to do what she did.

She can appeal the ban next year, but must first get professional counselling and convince the league that she has changed her behaviour.

The GTHL first learned of the incident after receiving several telephone and e-mail complaints, mostly from other mothers.

One complainant, who called the incident "disturbing," wrote that she and her sons ran into the woman after the game and the woman said: "What the hell are you looking at? Have you never seen t--s? Yeah, he's probably seen them on the Internet."

One witness said the atmosphere in the stands became rowdy, with parents on both sides exchanging barbs.

In a statement, GTHL president John Gardner said the incident showed a "complete lack of respect for the young players involved and the spectators present."

The statement also urges parents to use the incident and subsequent punishment as a reminder that minor hockey is played for the enjoyment and development of young players, not parents.

In a telephone interview, he said the ban sends a clear signal the GTHL takes a dim view of such conduct.

"It's quite a punishment being told you can't go to your son's arena to watch him play," Gardner said.

Two or three times a year, the GTHL bans a parent from its arenas for incidents such as accosting referees or players, but nothing of this nature has happened before in the league, he said.

The York Toros will have to police the ban, and can void her son's player's certificate if the ban is violated.

York Toros president George Butler didn't return a phone message.

When contacted by the Star yesterday, the woman who answered hung up the phone.

The incident in Mississauga happened just days before an Ajax mother and daughter were charged with assault after a player and fan were assaulted during a Provincial Junior A hockey game in Ajax.

The assaults happened during a match between the Ajax Axemen and the Thornhill Thunderbirds at the Ajax Community Centre last Sunday, after an Axemen player was injured when he was checked from behind, according to police.

The player who checked him was ejected, but while leaving the ice a metal bar was thrown at him.

Hot coffee was also thrown at him and opposing fans threw hot chocolate at the women who were attacking him.

Jennifer Labelle, 47, and Belinda Labelle, 18, face charges that include assault with a weapon.

Gardner said that while in his view the majority of parents at GTHL games conduct themselves in a proper manner, "some people, perfectly normal, go into an arena, and it becomes a pressure cooker for them.

"Hopefully this is not a trend," he said.