Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Cracking Down In The KHL

The image to the left was of a brawl between Vityaz and Avangard in the KHL. Starting this season, there will be hefty penalties served by both players and the teams involved in fracases like this as the KHL has beefed up its officiating by hiring former NHL referee and current ECAC director of officiating Paul Stewart to its ranks as a consultant and as an advisor to KHL president Alexander Medvedev on judicial matters. Following that up, a very poignant memo was sent to KHL teams by KHL Development Vice-President and Disciplinary Committee Chairman Valery Kamensky about the dangerous and reckless play that is plaguing the league. In short, expect harsher penalties for teams like Vityaz who seemingly want to win in the alley rather than the rink.

Hiring Paul Stewart is a great move by the KHL. Stewart was a fantastic referee in his time, and has transitioned nicely into managing official for both the men's and women's games in the ECAC. Stewart was a tough son-of-a-gun when he played hockey in several leagues, including the WHA and NHL, before retiring in 1980. He became an NHL official in 1985, working 1010 NHL games and 49 playoff games before retiring.

Stewart knows rough and tough play as he routinely found himself in the penalty box as a player. Because of this, rougher players in the NHL always seemed to hold him in higher respect when he was working their games. He is fiercely defensive of officials under his watch, and was even reprimanded and fined for defending his officials when a College Hockey News writer called him out about the ECAC officiating.

For an outfit like the KHL, getting a guy who has been through the wars, been in the trenches as an official, and is now helping to guide others through the same battles is something the KHL sorely needs to boost their reputation. Paul Stewart will not take players, coaches, or management trash-talking the officials, and any matter he is consulted on will probably see him wanting to issue some swift and brutal justice.

Giving him the ammo to do so is Disciplinary Committee Chairman Valery Kamensky who sent the following memo to KHL teams:
“Dear owners, coaches, players and other of hockey club employees,

On behalf of the KHL Sporting and Disciplinary Committee I would like to draw your attention to certain kinds of foul play. The analysis conducted over the course of last season by the Disciplinary Committee shows that the following violations are particularly likely to result in injury:
  • Hits to the head
  • Kneeing
  • Kicking
  • Boarding
  • Slashing, and striking an opponent between the legs
  • Charging the goalie
  • Being the aggressor in a brawl
Any occurrence of the violations listed above will come under close scrutiny by the Disciplinary Committee, which will conduct detailed investigations and take the most severe measures stipulated in the regulations. We make no apology for repeating once again that when the League is plagued by injuries, it has a negative effect on the entertainment value of the season and on the image and reputation of the entire League.

In addition to the fouls mentioned, may I draw your attention to the fact that the Committee does not only investigate incidents and foul play which take place during a game, but also those that occur during warm-ups or immediately after a game. I therefore consider it necessary to remind all that for these disciplinary violations, including abuse of the officials, the Committee has the right to impose additional sanctions on any offenders.

I wish you all a very good season and an honest, sporting contest!"
Honestly, for a league that routinely saw an average of one bench-clearing brawl per season, this kind of crackdown is for the best. Cheap shots, brawls, and general idiocy needs no place in the game, and Paul Stewart can now help the KHL issue some harsh penalties for those players who decide to play like a savage rather than playing like a star.

Good for the KHL in bringing Stewart on, and for cracking down on incidents that leave the KHL management a little red-faced.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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