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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Suspensions

Back in January I started to mention the difference between Canada and the USA in terms of leagues releasing sanction rulings to the public. I had intended to follow up on this once I got my words sorted out, but I got caught up in working on the USA Hockey Certification Matrix and then forgot about it. With Texas Tornado head coach Tony Curtale facing two days of hearings after receiving his third gross misconduct penalty of the season last weekend, it's a good time to bring this issue back to the forefront.

I’ll just come out and say I’m in favor of public revelation of league (and USA Hockey) sanctions. I think the main reason suspension rulings aren’t more public is that leagues wish to simply keep the rulings private out of embarrassment to the league, team(s), and players(s). I think that is short sighted. If it’s an issue of “protecting” the player, the philosophy is misguided, because the player SHOULD feel shame for his actions.

At the same time, the league can step forward and state, with each ruling, that they never condone such actions as resulted in the ruling. Of course, this will really only be necessary in the extreme cases. I wouldn’t expect leagues to use the boilerplate statement for administrative suspensions, such as those due to accumulated game misconducts.

I have to wonder if this reservation is an American phenomenon. I say this because a quick survey of some Canadian Junior A leagues showed several post their sanctions. The BCHL has a page on their site called “DISCIPLINE.” The AJHL posts their sanctions on their TRANSACTIONS page. The SJHL also handles it with a combined TRADES/DISCIPLINE page.

Here are some examples. The BCHL’s are the most minimalist, listing a short table of active issues with little real information short of who, what, when, and how long (the “why” is rather vague based on the two active suspensions currently listed). But here are the others:

Alberta
As a result of being assessed a match penalty for checking from behind, during a January 8, 2005 game in Bonnyville, player, Tyler Jessome is suspended for three (3) games as per rule #17C of the A.J.H.L. rules.

The suspension is to be served during the Pontiacs’ next three (3) regularly scheduled League games.
Saskatchewan
Upon completion of an investigation, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has suspended the Head Coach of the Melfort Mustangs, levied a fine to the hockey club and deducted three protected list players in relation with a tampering charge.

Darrell Mann has been suspended two games; while the hockey club has been fined $500 and ordered to operate with a protected list of 47-players as opposed to the standard 50 for a period of one year, beginning December 1st, 2004.

The tampering offense comes in relation to player Craig Macfie, who's Hockey Canada playing rights are now assumed by the Mustangs. Macfie is eligible to play immediately.

The SJHL Head Office says contact was established between Macfie and Mann which resulted in the player not reporting to another club. The two game suspension takes effect immediately and includes games of November 26 and 27.

(another example)

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has suspended Flin Flon Bomber forward Cole McLean for one game due to an accumulation of misconduct penalties. McLean will miss this Friday's (January 7th) game against the Battleford North Stars.
Manitoba
As a result of receiving his 5th Ten Misconduct Penalty this season, player Cam Tibbett of the Neepawa Natives is suspended for One game.

As a result of a High Sticking infraction that caused a major injury to an opposing player Neepawa Natives player, Marco Pellizzari is suspended for Two games.

As a result of a Line Brawl in a game between the Selkirk Steelers and Waywayseecappo Wolverines played on October 23, 2004: player Chris Morrissette of the Selkirk Steelers has been suspended for Five games for instigating a Line Brawl; player Cody Johnson of the Selkirk Steelers has been suspended for Two games for participating in a Line Brawl and for Two games for receiving a Gross Misconduct penalty; player Evan Walsh of the Selkirk Steelers has been suspended for Two games for participating in a Line Brawl; Coach Ric Bender of the Selkirk Steelers is suspended for One game; and player Tyler Hennessey of the Waywayseecappo Wolverines has been suspended for Five games for Leaving the Player’s Bench for the purpose of entering an altercation.
See, it’s not that hard, is it? I like Alberta’s because they apply the specific rule violated. The others do a good job of describing the events. Clearly, some require more explanation than others.

So, I think it’s clear to most everyone that public display of sanctions holds teams and players to a higher standard of accountability, but I think it’s important to note that it also holds leagues to a higher standard as well. I think leagues have a habit of hiding behind their rulings. Most suspensions are administrative – collect enough magic misconducts or other penalties and the rules as applied state you get “x” games. However, if a ruling is controversial, the subject of the ruling doesn’t have much recourse. They can’t really talk about it publicly, perhaps out of embarrassment but also out of fear of further sanction. However, by displaying the ruling in public, in the light of public view, public scrutiny can be mitigated. As Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

I experienced this last season with the Lone Star Cavalry. After a Texas Cup game (i.e., NOT a league game) between the Cavalry and the Texas Tornado, USA Hockey handed down a series of suspensions to both teams. The rulings were sent to the NAHL for their review, and despite not having any authority to do so (the Texas Cup games were exhibitions not sanctioned by the NAHL), Larry Perdie took it upon himself to pile on more games to the detriment of the Cavalry. When questioned about the issue, Michael Santos, who had not viewed the game tape, simply referred back to Pedrie’s explanations for the ruling. The Cavalry ultimately decided not to further challenge the ruling, having already served most of the player/games accumulated.


I'm curious hear from folks on the topic. As always, feel free to post an anonymous comment below.

Comments on "Suspensions"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:58 AM, November 09, 2005) : 

I am not aware of any other instances, other that the WSHL rulings in the present Cajun/Diablos case, where a USA administrative body has chosen to "hide" Its determinations and rulings. It reflects a sense of "shame" upon the League, itself, which is the opposite of what the administrators should be feeling. They should be proud that they have a system in place to fairly mete out punishment for acts detrimental to the League. Their actions should be as beacons to show the course of wrong-doing and the map to rehabilitation.
Secrecy smacks of cronyism, deal-making, face-saving and shame: A very wrong-headed way for an administrative body to promote itself.

 

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