State title games delayed,Taylor Sportsplex evacuated due to unexplained illness

Editor’s note: During the state title games being played at Taylor Sportsplex on Sunday, March 11, members of various teams began falling ill to an unknown case. The fire department eventually led the evacuation of the building, after a reported 25-28 people began experiencing flu-like symptoms. MiHockey writer Carl Chimenti was at the Sportsplex to cover the games, and here is his account of the day.

By Carl Chimenti -

TAYLOR - It started out like a great day for viewing youth hockey.

The Taylor Sportsplex was buzzing this weekend, as the ice arena hosted a variety of state championship contests. A huge crowd had gathered to watch four top state final games that included the ‘99 Pee Wee Majors, 14U Bantam Major, the 16U Midget Minors and the 18U Midget Major tilts that were scheduled to be completed the evening of March 11.

It turned out to be anything but that, as the night spun out of control. Things started out fine as the 16U and 18U games were played in the morning, with the best two out of three tied and scheduled for 6:30 pm and 8 pm that evening to crown a state champion.

Meanwhile the third game went without a hitch as the large gathering watched Compuware beat Little Caesars 3-2 in the Pee Wee Major state title game. The madness started soon afterward during 14U Bantam Major game. As the game progressed those of us covering the game were seated in one of the two suites, when reports started filtering in that a portion of the Victory Honda kids had come down with a stomach virus, although with people still not knowing the severity of the situation at hand, it was business as usual. The game went on as normal, with Victory Honda missing some key players due to the unknown illness. As the 14U game continued, now going into a second and third overtime, the shock began to unfold as the Taylor Fire Department had arrived and started bringing out players in stretchers and off to the nearest hospital.

We watched in shock as a number of players were taken out one by one.

“There were six kids to start and it ended up being seven or eight,” said Brian Burke, head coach of Victory Honda. “All of a sudden they started puking and then more and more guys started puking on the bench and we just kept losing them as the game went on.”

The 14U game was now four minutes shy of completing the seventh overtime when more trouble occurred. Belle Tire forward Greg Aliotta had picked up a loose puck along the wall and began driving towards the net. Just before he got there he was leveled with a thunderous check. As he lay on the ice you could see only his feet moving, as fire department personal moved in along with team and safety officials from the complex. He was put on a stretcher slowly and was removed from the ice. The check seemed like a normal hit and did not appear to be reckless or intentional. After he was in the process of being moved the evacuation notice was relayed to everyone to begin leaving the rink immediately.

The fire department issued an evacuation of the building so they could proceed with an investigation immediately as to why the illnesses occurred. For the safety of everyone in the rink it was the right thing to do.