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Hockey families on both sides of border demand answers from twin B.C. entrepreneurs


Missing refunds, cancelled or non-existent tournament registration, shoddy equipment, disorganization, and poor communication costing parents hundreds or thousands of dollars are among allegations on both sides of the border that has caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Langley twin brothers Spencer and Scott McHaffie have been running full winter season hockey teams, spring and summer training camps, and ad hoc competitive teams to play in tournaments under the name of the Vancouver Golden Panthers since spring of 2018, when they formed a partnership under the name of McHaffie Brothers Hockey Training.

The brothers had played minor hockey and were hired to coach before forming their own company. They initially had predominantly positive reviews by participant families, but complaints have been growing since 2020.

CTV News has spoken with more than a dozen families who said they were surprised and flattered to be approached for their child to play on an “elite team” and have provided dozens of pages of emails, text messages, and documentation about programs for which they paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars in deposits to $10,000 in fees for a full winter program.

An email shared with CTV News Vancouver from Vancouver Golden Panthers.

And while the feeling of being short-changed or misled is palpable, all of them emphasize that the worst part of the experience was the emotional impact on their children: disappointment, frustration, confusion, and embarrassment.

“We kept telling (our) kid this is not his fault when he was self doubted,” wrote one parent, who did not want to be named out of concern for their child’s future in the sport, a sentiment several Lower Mainland parents echoed.

Parents tell CTV News that they had poor quality gear rather than top-tier equipment specified, there were sometimes no coaches on hand for games, communication was terrible, and they were often contacted at the last minute for coaching or practice sessions.

A poster shows season costs for Vancouver Golden Panthers.

“I kept reaching out to Scott, ‘can you tell us the schedule of everything,’ and about two days before we were supposed to leave, he emailed this huge email saying ‘nope, we’re not going to the tournament and we’ll refund your money,’” said Kari Gresini of Las Vegas, who says she never received the refund.

Poor communication and disorganization are recurring themes, which Joel Graf, of Trail, B.C., experienced. His son was excited about golden gloves and helmets, and was surprised they’d enter a tournament as the “North American Panthers,” without the expected calibre of equipment.

“That last game (of the second tournament) Scott didn’t show up, nobody showed up,” he said. “Spencer was really good, in full contact with me, communicated with me, really good in the beginning half and then all of a sudden didn’t respond to an email, couldn’t get a hold of the manager.”

U.S. detective gathering complainants

In a letter to parents in October 2021, the Hockey Super League notified them that they were installing new coaches and managers of the Vancouver Golden Panthers to complete the winter hockey season because “the ethical standards and operational level that we expect from our HSL franchise owners is not longer being met with the current leadership.”

Canadian and American parents who spoke with CTV News are frustrated their local police are directing them to small claims court to resolve the disputes despite so many complainants, and a detective in Wyoming is asking anyone who believes they didn’t get what they paid for to get in touch at

“I’ve been in contact with the United States Secret Service Vancouver office, I’ve been in contact with the FBI here in the United states,” said Det. Matthew Wharton, with the Sweetwater, Wyoming Sheriff’s Office, in addition to a Colorado police department.

The McHaffies continue to send tournament marketing emails to parents, some of who are still waiting for refunds, under the new name of AAA Pro Sports Group, prompting Wharton to ask ,“When do we have to intervene?”

Wharton got involved when a Sweetwater parent paid Vancouver Golden Panthers a deposit for his son to play in a Las Vegas tournament, but never received a training schedule nor confirmation of registration. He’s included in a spreadsheet parents have been compiling with nearly 100 complainants across Canada and the US.

Mounties tell CTV News they do not keep a record of complaints that don’t result in investigations and are typically addressed by small claims court, but the American system is different and the Sweetwater Sheriff’s Office is keeping track of complaints to determine if a co-ordinated investigation may be warranted.

Despite multiple attempts to contact the McHaffies via their cell phones, individual and company email addresses, and their Better Business Bureau contact information, CTV News has not received a response from either brother.

A BBB warning and an A+ rating

Keith Eilerts reached out to CTV News from Missouri out of frustration that the McHaffies ghosted him after he’d paid a deposit for a tournament and then asked the brothers about online chatter that they were short-changing players and not paying registration fees for tournaments.

“(Scott) said ‘oh, they’re just trolls, don’t worry about it,” said Eilerts, who was unsatisfied with the answers and asked to pull out. “He goes ‘oh, well actually you signed a no refund policy’…Now he will not return phone calls or answer texts or nothing.”

Other parents also describe good initial contact, but being ghosted when asked for details or when asking where their refunds are.

The RCMP and Better Business Bureau of BC are urging parents to do their research before sending anyone money for sports programs, which parents CTV News spoke with deeply regret not doing; some now say they “saw red flags” but were excited and hopeful about their child being invited to an elite program, particularly with suggestions there could be talent scouts at tournaments.

Taking the brothers to small claims court or complaining to the consumer watchdog are options, but the BBB claims the Vancouver Golden Panthers haven’t had any complaints against them since they joined in 2020. They have an A+ ranking as a result.

CTV News asked how that was possible when the posted phone number is out of service and the website is now defunct.

A screenshot showing BBB filing for the Vancouver Golden Panthers.

“Good question, it’s obviously something for us to look at,” said B.C. president of BBB, Simone Lis, who is encouraging anyone who feels their agreement with the VGP was unfulfilled.

When CTV News went to the address listed on the BBB website, it was in a residential neighbourhood and the house number did not appear to exist. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Cam Mitchell Top Stories

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