Stratford Cullitons and Mitch Vandergunst

There’s been lots in the news this week about the now former Stratford Cullitons veteran player and assistant captain Mitch Vandergunst.

Vandergunst was sentenced this week to a one year prison term, two years probation and must enter the sexual offenders registry for an incident from the summer of 2013.

On Tues., I saw a tweet from a sports writer for a paper in Cambridge asking about how Stratford didn’t know that one of their players had been convicted of sexual assault, and I knew immediately that he was talking about Vandergunst.  I’d heard about this case sometime last year.  I did some research and found the following article:

The Cullitons had just found out about this last week, according to this article.  They suspended him immediately until they reviewed everything and could have a board of directors meeting about it.  As of Tues., they were saying that nobody in their organization knew that this situation was going on.  I personally did not buy it because like I said, I’d heard about it last year and if I’ve heard it, other more important people have heard it too.

Wed. was when he was sentenced.  Mitch’s lawyer had asked for a conditional sentence so that he could continue playing hockey and apparently he wrote a letter to the Cullitons organization asking that they allow him to continue to play.  This is the article about his sentencing.

Due to his lawyer appealing the convictions, Vandergunst was released on bail on Wed. as well.  This is the article about him being on bail.

Last night is when all the fireworks happened.  Again on Twitter, I saw the news that Cullitons Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Phil Westman had resigned and that Vandergunst, and his best friend Ty Bilcke, had been released from the team.  This is the article about the board’s decision on this matter.

Bilcke had agreed with the team that it was in his best interests to leave.  My understanding is that he has left the team on his own accord, not that the team pressured him into leaving due to his friendship with Vandergunst.

I like Stratford’s expanded policy on zero tolerance and their code of conduct.

In a media release, the Hockey Club said that in order to ensure that all members of the Hockey Club, players, staff and board members understand suitable conduct and our zero tolerance policy, we will be undertaking the following steps:

1. Players, staff and board members will participate in addition suitable conduct training sessions with our Prevention Officer, as well as a Domestic Abuse awareness session provided by Optimist Place Women’s Shelter and Support Services.

2. The board will review our current policies with regards to reporting protocols and obligations for players, staff and board members.

3. Criminal record checks for players 18 and over will be instituted by the team.

If volunteers with the team have to do police record checks, why not do them on the players too?  I see in the updated story from last night that the OHA is going to possibly amend their policies as well.  Remember, the mandate of the OHA is safety and protection of their members.  If they expand their policies, it’s to not bring negativity towards the OHA or their members, ie. the teams.

Overall, I applaud the Cullitons organization on how they have handled this situation.  I admittedly don’t know a lot about the Mid-West Conference, I’ve recently taken an interest in learning what I can to better my knowledge of the entire GOJHL, but I’ve heard over the years that Stratford is the team that nobody likes.  Perhaps that’s just on the ice because I haven’t seen anything that makes me think they’re not a good organization.  In my opinion, they have handled this 100% correctly.  I had thought to myself the other day that if they didn’t at least strip him of his A then it would imply that they condone his actions.  They’ve not only taken his letter away, they’ve told him he is no longer a member of the organization and that they will not tolerate behaviour like that from anyone within their organization.

Say what you want about Stratford, but that’s a top notch, first class organization.

You all know that I am a die-hard Rockets fan, but I am also a die-hard GOJHL fan, having been watching Jr. B hockey since I was 10 years old. I will only watch the GOJHL and during the hockey season, you never know what arena RG is gonna show up at. I'm bringing you the games, news, and updates of the GOJHL. RG is on Facebook at and you can find me on Twitter at If you hear of anything about any of the teams in the GOJHL, or have questions about anything, feel free to post it. If I don't know the answer, I know how to find it.

1 Comment

  1. Welland fan

    February 7, 2015 at 12:17 am

    No class there. As you said, if you heard about it, so did others that are higher up. The organization tried to cover it up and didn’t do the right thing until the news became public.

    They even went as far as saying nobody in their organization knew about it before the truth came out. We all know others in the organization knew. They lost any chance at saving their name when they hoped it wouldn’t come out.

    Just my opinion here.

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