Hi, Snakes fans. Just got a call from the league VP, Doug Price. Doug just got my voice mail from Monday afternoon and appreciated the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind the suspensions handed down after the Huntsville-Mississippi Surge brawl.
Doug told me that he and President Jim Combs spent a total of 10 hours looking at the video and discussing possible suspensions. Basically, they had 2 choices. If the league suspended everybody who participated at all, the teams would have to suspend operations for a couple of weeks...literally. We're talking probably 6-8 players per team who participated in some way.
So, this is the benchmark they used to evaluate every player: Was he a peacekeeper or did he accelerate the situation? Did he try to stop it or make it worse? Who was most involved and therefore most deserving of suspension?
Doug confirmed what I already knew. Huntsville's Corey Fulton did step into the bench voluntarily. He was NOT dragged. Fulton not only stepped up into the bench of his own accord, he took the Surge player and slammed him into the back wall. Not good. He got 4 games as the instigator of this whole mess.
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The other Huntsville players who were suspended: Matt Smyth, Bill Baker and Chapen LeBlond were hit hard because they were running around punching everybody and definitely NOT trying to be peacemakers.
Doug confirmed what I already wrote. When Fulton came into the Surge bench, it was absolutely expected that some of the Huntsville players would come in after him. Doug said that there were not a lot of Mississippi players actively involved except Branden Kosolofsky and Anthony Collins.
Before I get to Kosolofsky, let me clear up why Collins got 3 games. Remember when I told ya'all, and it's clear on the video, that everything had calmed down and, all of a sudden, one of the Surge players threw a punch and started everything again? Well, that was Collins.
Now to Kosolofsky, who got 6 games. He got the double minor in the incident that preceded the brawl. He was the one who threw the sticks early. Doug said that Kosolofsky tossed the sticks in frustration, not aiming them at anybody. Then the spear: Doug said that Kosolofsky picked up the stick and kind of leaned over the bench into a mass of players, not forcefully. And...big key...nobody was injured.
Doug completely agreed that the use of sticks is absolutely wrong and the potential for disaster is great. He also told me that they look at a player's record. Kosolofsky has no past history, no previous suspensions for stick violations.
So, in a nutshell, here is how the suspensions are determined: Injury or not? Intent? Hockey play or dirty play?
Jim and Doug came up with a set of numbers on Sunday, slept on them and got together again on Monday.
I told Doug quite honestly that I thought picking up the stick and using it as a weapon in a heated moment had a high potential for disaster. He agreed. But he mentioned that Kosolofsky immediately dropped the stick after the spear, which he definitely did. He dropped it like the kid on the playground who caught the teacher looking at him when he did something he shouldn't have done. "Uh, oh...busted!!"
I asked about the two previous lengthy suspensions, one to Matt Zultek for cross-checking Billy McCreary in the head and the other to Aaron McGill for the sucker punch that broke Mark Van Vliet's jaw.
Doug said that Zultek had McCreary on the ice, face down, and cross-checked him once. McCreary raised up and Zultek cross-checked him a second time on the head and neck area. He made a conscious decision and it was much more dangerous than what Kosolofsky did.
In the McGill incident, play had stopped and the league factored in Van Vliet's injury.
Another interesting tidbit of info. When a player is fined, he must write a check to the league for the fine by a certain date. The fine can't be paid by the team. If the league finds out that the team paid a player's fine, the team itself is fined. Believe me, hitting an SPHL player in the wallet is not an insignificant punishment.
I was honest with Doug and told him I expected Kosolofsky's punishment to be 10 games minimum, based on two criteria. One, he picked up a stick and used it as a weapon. Two, the potential for a bloodbath was very real. He picked up a stick in the heat of battle when practically nobody is thinking clearly or rationally. Doug told me he and Jim didn't feel it warranted that long a suspension.
I very much appreciate Doug calling me and I'm glad to report on the thought process and all of the factors that go into the league's punishments. Thanks so much, Doug.