Hockey suspensions raise questions
By Ian Ross
Does fighting have a place in university hockey? No, but to what extent should such actions be penalized? That is the question both the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union and the Atlantic Universities Athletic Association are currently attempting to answer. The issue came to the forefront after the suspensions of four players from the AUAA were reduced yesterday, nearly two months after a Nov. 15 brawl during a game between the Acadia Axemen and the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers.
Initially, the harshest sanction was a 14-game suspension to Acadia's Bruce Watson for instigating two fights. After re-evaluation by league officials, the suspension was reduced to eight games. Teammate Jeff Mercer had his nine-game suspension reduced to four, while UPEI's Jonathan Murphy and Jeremy Pierce received six games instead of the original 10 and 12 respectively.
Heavier sanctions against fighting were implemented 17 years ago for all university conferences to curb violence and Kevin Cameron, the AUAA executive director, feels that such sanctions are still relevant today. He points to the uniqueness of the Acadia-UPEI incident, which in the end included nine players and a coach. Cameron admits that his conference did not have the clear-cut and direct rules needed to deal with such an event.
Dave MacLean, currently in his first year as the AUAA hockey chair, admitted that the Atlantic division was incorrect in their initial interpretation of the suspension rules.
"The decision [to reduce the suspensions] came after discussion with many of my colleagues from across the country," MacLean said. "We determined that I was double-penalizing our players and found a punishment that was more appropriate."
One of the colleagues MacLean turned to was OUA hockey convenor Bill Oliver who said that recent discrepancies in university league enforcement were discussed by all regional league convenors after the incident. They have proposed to sit down at the CIAU hockey finals to be held at the University of Saskatoon in March to further discuss the situation.
"When I heard about the 14-game suspension, I found it hard to fathom," Oliver said. "[MacLean] applied sanctions that I never would have followed."
Oliver used terms such as 'unclear, redundant and a mess' to describe the current wording surrounding the CIAU multiple game misconduct rules.
With future discussions scheduled to resolve the issue, Mustang head coach Barry Martinelli feels there is room for changes. "I don't like fighting," he said. "However, I wish there was more lenience to prevent stick-work.
Cameron also recognizes the damage that stick-work has done to the game, but feels that loosening the rules on fighting would be a step backward and a bad reflection of a game associated with an institution of higher learning.