Couldn't wait another minute before giving ya'all the truth about the brawl. Our published report came as a result of my perusing Pointstreak's long laundry list of penalties and a post-game interview with Mark Atnip, PA guy and B2 road announcer for Knoxville.
I'm giving Mark the benefit of the doubt here as I know what it's like to watch one of these incidents through marred plexiglass from a mile away. Also we all know how quickly things happen in hockey.
Will try to post the link here, but not sure if it'll work. Have watched it several times, and here is my take on this:
Swider and Sich are engaged in a fierce battle for the scoring title. Swider, as we know, has won FIVE in a row and gone over 100 points twice in his SPHL career. Sich had a nice lead over Swider until Swider got red hot in the last two weeks of the season. Entering the game they were tied at 97 points.
Point two. There's not a lot of love lost between these two teams. Fayetteville was just over a minute away from dethroning Knoxville in the playoffs last season. Knoxville went on to win the title.
This game was in Knoxville. Swider is a Knoxville hero and Sich is not one of the league's more popular players...especially in Knoxville.
If you can't open this link, find the clip on youtube. This clearly starts out as a garden variety line brawl. Lots of shoving, some punches, grab your partner.
It appears to me that Sich is targeted early. His number is 67 so try to find and follow him. Very early he's being hit by several Knoxville players in front of, but not too close to, the Knoxville bench. That settles down pretty quickly.
The question that begs to be answered here is: why did Sich go so close to the Knoxville bench and did he run his mouth? The reason I ask these questions is that both would be likely behaviors for him. I don't know the answer to either question, but I do know that regardless of whether or not or how much he was chirping, he didn't deserve what comes next.
A Knoxville player reached out and grabbed Sich by the sweater, by the scruff of his neck and hauled him into their bench. It's around the 47-second mark of the video clip. Only then did the Fayetteville bench empty.
Now hockey is a rough sport, but there's no excuse for this. If Knoxville coach Marc Rodgers ordered this or condoned it, he should be suspended and given a stiff fine. The player who grabbed Sich must also be done. I know the Fayetteville players face punishment for leaving the bench, bus ask yourself this:
What happens if, for the sake of argument, Mississippi grabs Craig Stahl or Orrin Hergott and yanks him into its bench? Let me leave you with the image of what you know would happen.
I know commish Jim Combs has his work cut out for him. The video I saw was probably taken from a fan. Others will surface. They always do. Then there's the official footage from the game. Hopefully sweater numbers will be more visible on other views.
After Jim hands down punishment, I think a meeting with all coaches and strict guidlines for the upcoming series comes next.