Work-permit issues have contributed to a Barrie Colts assistant coach Jan Platil being terminated, going into debt and moving back to his native Czech Republic.
But Colts co-owner Howie Campbell says the onslaught of harassment he’s received since then has led to criminal charges against Platil.
This week, Campbell shared with BarrieToday the almost-daily string of abusive text messages he’s received from Platil, former Barrie Colts assistant coach, since he moved back to the Czech Republic. The messages range from demanding money, general insults and threats against Campbell and his family.
Platil, a former star defenceman with the Barrie Colts in the early 2000s, says he dropped everything when he got the call to come work with the Ontario Hockey League team last year.
“I saw it as a kind of homecoming,” said Platil.
Platil’s junior hockey career started playing for the Barrie Colts from 2000 to 2003.
He was then drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the seventh round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
After three seasons in Binghamton, N.Y., playing for the Senators’ American Hockey League farm team, Platil made his way to Europe to play, including stops in Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Italy over his professional career.
Platil finished his career in 2014 and said he immediately wanted to get back involved with the sport on a coaching level.
He came back to Canada to work as a head counsellor at the Barrie Colts camp in the summer of 2017, before being offered the position of assistant coach for the following season.
“I dropped everything for them because I ... wanted to be a part of the organization that raised me,” Platil said.
In his contract with the Barrie Colts, Platil agreed to be paid $20,000 to work as assistant coach for the OHL team from Sept. 1, 2017 until May 31, 2018.
Platil says he knew the compensation was small, but he loved the game and wanted to participate. He says he had also saved some extra money to help supplement his income during this time.
“I understood,” he said. “I had to learn and pay my dues to get some experience to show I’m willing to work as a coach.”
At the end of August, Platil flew from the Czech Republic back to Barrie to start work.
But neither side can agree on whose responsibility it was to apply for Platil’s work permit.
Platil insists it was the responsibility of Barrie Colts management. He says it’s common practice for the employer to complete the work-permit process for any players and coaches it brings in from out of country.
Colts co-owner Jim Payetta disagrees.
In an interview this week with BarrieToday, Payetta says the Colts usually bring in two European players per year, and they are responsible, with their agents and the organizations they are drafted from, to get their paperwork in order including their work permits.
Payetta says Platil is the first coach the Barrie Colts have brought in from out of country.
“We initially found out there was an issue when we tried to set him up with payroll,” said Payetta, estimating that Colts management first found out Platil didn’t have a work permit in November.
When Platil and Colts management were made aware of the issue surrounding his work permit, Platil tried to apply for one through the proper channels with the assistance of Barrie Colts staff and Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard’s office.
“We were trying to do our best to help him with the situation,” Payetta said. “Once we found out, we tried everything we could to help him.”
According to Platil’s termination letter, dated March 9 and signed by Payetta, it was always Platil’s responsibility to apply for the work permit.
Payetta indicates the team was under the impression Platil was already working in Canada when they hired him as assistant coach and that, presumptively, he already had a work permit.
“To reiterate what we already spoke about, it is not our responsibility, nor was it ever our responsibility, to secure a work permit for you,” reads the letter. “You began your duties as an assistant coach and then we discovered that indeed you did not have a work permit to be working in Canada legally. Our staff and our local MP spent hours trying to help you get your permit, with no success.”
In the original contract Platil signed with the Colts, there is no indication whose responsibility it was to apply for his work permit.
Also, the termination clause reads: “The Colts may terminate this agreement at any time for cause without notice or payment or any kind of compensation either by way of anticipated earnings or damages of any kind.”
The termination letter, dated almost three months after Platil stopped performing his work duties due to the work-permit issue, also outlines some legal issues Payetta was made aware of, including an old driving under the influence (DUI) charge from New York, a border stop due to illegal-immigration issues and a suspended licence incident in Barrie.
While Platil concedes the impaired-driving charge from years ago during a stint in New York, he insists the suspended licence incident was a misunderstanding due to a rental car not having correct plate stickers, and those charges were dropped.
He also points out the plate sticker issue happened in February, two months after the Colts dismissed him unofficially.
The letter indicates that Campbell and general manager Jason Ford met with Platil in December 2017 to discuss the immigration issue after Platil held up the team bus at the border that was travelling to Erie on Dec. 15, 2017 for a game. As a result of Platil’s immigration issues, the bus had to leave him at the border. He did not attend the two games the team played that weekend.
“They told you at the time that we could not continue with you in our company due to those issues and the fact that we could not legally be paying you,” wrote Payetta.
Campbell says that when they had that meeting with Platil in mid-December, they had urged him to go back to the Czech Republic, get his papers in order, and once he had done that the team fully intended to have him come back to coach for the 2018-19 season.
Brassard sent a letter to Platil on March 14, indicating they were dropping the issue.
“I regret to inform you that my constituency office has exhausted all aspects of your enquiries and will no longer be able to provide any further information to you or to the Barrie Colts Hockey Club in regard to this matter,” reads the letter.
The letter concludes by directing Platil to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency. It’s also copied to Campbell and Ford.
What complicated the issue is that Platil’s wife, Michaela, had moved to Canada to reunite their family and was pregnant in her third trimester when Platil was dismissed from the team in December.
As she couldn’t fly back to Prague in her third trimester, she had to deliver the baby at Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in February when she went into labour seven weeks before she was due.
Since Platil didn’t have a work permit, he wasn’t supported by OHIP and was handed a bill for over $34,000 for the birth.
After being able to prove he had a Barrie residence, Platil says the bill was knocked in half by RVH, so now he owes $17,000.
Overall, between extra flight costs, the costs of living with a newborn in Barrie while not being paid and the hospital bills, Platil estimates he is in debt to the tune of $70,000 as a result of the mix-up.
Now, Platil has moved back to Prague so he can work to pay off his debt. He has opened a hockey school there to try to make ends meet.
“I’ve worked really hard to make a name for myself. I never expected something like this would happen in a thousand years,” Platil said.
Platil posted two videos online in June outlining his story and his intention to sue the Barrie Colts for the money he feels he is owed. He is asking the Barrie Colts to pay out his contract, claiming to be owed $11,500.
However after speaking with a lawyer, he says he can’t afford to hire one at this point.
When BarrieToday contacted the Ministry of the Attorney General on July 3 to see if there were any outstanding criminal charges against Platil, they indicated they were unable to locate any criminal court files in his name.
However this week, Barrie police Const. Paolo Butera confirmed that a warrant for Platil’s arrest has been sent to the courts on charges of criminal harassment and uttering threats due to the messages sent to Campbell. Platil cannot be formally charged while he’s in the Czech Republic, but if he comes back to Canada, he will formally be charged at that point.
Platil discusses the text messages he sent to Campbell in one of the videos he posted on his Facebook page on June 12, saying he doesn’t intend to stop sending them until he gets his money. He also acknowledges in the video that Const. Butera has contacted him and asked him to stop threatening Barrie Colts staff.
Overall, Campbell is disappointed with how the situation played out. He says that, as a result of the problems they’ve had, going forward they’ll be putting a clause in contracts that import coaches must apply for their own work permits and have their paperwork in order before coming to Canada, so responsibility will be crystal clear.
“We really thought we were helping an alumni out by hiring him,” said Campbell. “We would have been happy to have him come back next season if he would have left in December.”