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Canadian Press
Dec 20, 2006, 8:04 PM EST


SAINT JOHN, N.B. (CP) - The coach of a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team has been suspended for two games after players were asked to sign a Canadian flag destined for troops in Afghanistan.

The ruling against Jacques Beaulieu, coach and general manager of the Saint John Sea Dogs, was posted on the league's official website Wednesday night. In his decision, league commissioner Gilles Courteau said Beaulieu was also sanctioned for comments about Sea Dogs left-winger Dave Bouchard.

Bouchard - who didn't sign the flag - was booted from the team on Sunday.

"To me, not signing it is disgraceful," Beaulieu had told the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. "That's a lack of character and a lack of respect for being a Canadian, and it's just totally unacceptable."

In a brief news release on the league website, Courteau said the sanction was the result of asking Sea Dogs players to sign the flag as well as public comments made about Bouchard.

"After discussions with the Sea Dogs organization and Jacques Beaulieu, I remain convinced that Dave Bouchard was released only on the grounds of his performance on the ice," said the commissioner.

"Nevertheless, the request from the Sea Dogs to have the players sign the flag was inappropriate and the comments made by Jacques Beaulieu in regards to Dave Bouchard violate the QMJHL anti-discrimination policy.

"The comments can be hurtful to the player and can be construed as a violation of his rights and consequently, of our anti-discrimination policy."

Courteau has also imposed a $1,000 fine against the Sea Dogs organization.

The commissioner, the team and Bouchard's agent all said they would not be available for comment on the league's decision.

Bouchard, a 20-year-old from Jonquiere, Que., said he didn't sign the flag because he was told another player had signed on his behalf. He later said he apologized to the coach.

Bouchard has said that not signing the flag was, in fact, the main reason for his release. He also stressed he doesn't oppose Canada's military presence in Afghanistan.

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