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At the crossroads

Defencemen Landon Cross (above) and Landon Peel failed to report to Kootenay Ice fitness testing and have been suspended by the WHL. - Chris Pullen Photo/cranbrookphoto.com
Defencemen Landon Cross (above) and Landon Peel failed to report to Kootenay Ice fitness testing and have been suspended by the WHL.
— image credit: Chris Pullen Photo/cranbrookphoto.com

Taylor Rocca

Kootenay Ice defencemen Landon Cross and Landon Peel have been suspended  after failing to report to training camp in Cranbrook.

Yesterday, it was incorrectly reported that all players expected at camp were present, when in fact both Cross and Peel were not in attendance at the Monday morning veterans skate.

Both Cross and Peel are entering their overage year of junior hockey.

Cross, a native of Brandon, Man., battled concussions through the 2013-14 season and indicated he preferred to play his final year of junior hockey at home in Manitoba.

“As a parent, not as a general manager, I was concerned about him and what he was going through,” said Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth Tuesday afternoon.

Cross and Chynoweth spoke on June 9, at which time the blueliner informed Chynoweth of his intent to stay at home and play his overage year in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL). The 6-foot-2 Cross registered 11 points in 67 games last season, split between the Ice and Kamloops Blazers.

Peel is also a Manitoba kid, hailing from Virden. His absence came as a surprise to both Chynoweth and head coach Ryan McGill.

“He told me at the end of [last season] he was definitely coming back and wanted to compete for one of the 20-year-old spots,” Chynoweth said. “He caught us a little bit off guard.”

The 5-foot-11 Peel tallied 20 points in 63 games with the Ice last season.

The WHL and MJHL will sort out the future of the players who are still under contract with the Kootenay Ice. All major junior players sign a standard player contract that commits them to their WHL club through their 20-year-old season.

“There has to be some accountability,” Chynoweth said. “[Players] can’t just leave when they want to. It’s unfortunate.

“Both are good players and more importantly, good people. But there has to be some accountability from their end as well.”

With training camp getting underway this morning, the departure of two veteran defencemen opens up opportunity for a fresh face to step in.

Tanner Faith, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild, is expected to help fill the void. The 18-year-old native of Terrace only suited up for 10 games with the Ice last season as he battled injury.

“We still really believe the opportunity for these other guys to push through and be leaders and be good players is actually a blessing in disguise,” McGill said.

The Ice veterans are the first to suit up today, with practice slated for 9 a.m.

The rookies hit the sheet afterwards with the first prospect game scheduled for 11 a.m. The puck drops on the second prospect game at 6 p.m.

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