The SPHL handed down suspensions from the Huntsville-Mississippi Surge brawl today. I admit that I'm stunned by how lopsided the penalties are and what a slap on the wrist Branden Kosolofsky got.
To briefly recap the incident: With around 5 minutes left in the game, Huntsville's Corey Fulton stepped into the Surge bench to fight. He was NOT pulled in. He made the decision to go into the bench, a decision triggered this whole mess. Fulton was soon swallowed up by a mass of humanity, that was quite a few Surge players Several Huntsville players came on to the bench to rescue Fulton.
For their trouble, Fulton was suspended 4 games, Chapen LeBlond 5, Matt Smyth 5, Bill Baker 3. Coach Glen Detulleo got 2 for failing to control his bench. Ian Boots and Bryan Doerrsman were fined as was the Havoc trainer. On the Surge side, Kosolofsky got 6 games and Anthony Collins 3.
Kosolofsky got only 6 games for a laundry list of transgressions. First he heaved sticks onto the ice. Then, and this is the most serious offense of all, he made the conscious decision to lean down, pick up a stick and spear a Huntsville player in the gut. It was horrible and potentially very dangerous.
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Before I'm unfairly dismissed as an old woman (well, that's not too inaccurate or unfair, actually) who doesn't understand that this is a rough and violent sport, blah blah blah.....let me explain my position. I like a good, fair fight as much as the next person. Fighting is a part of hockey. No question about that. But a brawl gives the sport and the league a black eye, no pun intended. I didn't play this game as a child, or any other time, :) but I know the number one rule is that when you're fighting (or any other time) you do NOT USE A STICK AS A WEAPON!!! Duh. The dangerous precedent this sets and the potential for disaster are both indescribable.
Allow me to use my imagination a little. Kosolofsky spears a player. The player's teammates get steamed (this is a family newspaper) so they grab sticks and start whaling on Kosolofsky. His teammates don't want Kosolofsky to get hurt, so they grab sticks and take up for him. Pretty soon you have a river of blood flowing. Not just a few stitches.
The video of this incident has gone viral. It's on CNN and yahoo. How proud we all must be, right? As a shareholder in this league since it's inception, 9 seasons now, I HATE that this kind of publicity is being directed at this league. I've seen the SPHL grow in every way it can grow in 9 years and this is NOT the kind of publicity it needs!! It's an embarrassment that a serious of poor decisions by a handful of players led to this kind of publicity.
What's even worse is the league's response. I called Doug Price for comment on the specifics and thought process for assigning the punishments. Granted, it was 1:40 on New Year's Eve afternoon...not prime working time...haha. I didn't hear back from Doug yet, but when I do, I'll be sure to put his explanation in this space.
I expected Kosolofsky to get between 10 and 15 games. The league needed to send a message that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. It didn't send that message, which begs the question: why not??
The SPHL gave Matt Zultek 10 games when he cross-checked Billy McCreary in the head on Feb. 13, 2011. The previous day Aaron McGill sucker punched Mark Van Vliet in the head and was suspended for the rest of the season, which ended up being 14 games.
In my opinion, the Havoc got the short end of this stick and the Surge got off way too easy. They were hardly innocent bystanders. Many punches were thrown at Fulton and others. Early in the brawl it was Surge vs Fulton. Hardly a fair matchup.
The league needs to take a look at this situation again. Jeff Bes and the Surge should be held more accountable for their actions and Kosolofsky's games should be doubled.
Will let you know Doug's reasoning as soon as I hear from him.