Monday, 11 January 2010

KHL Comes Down Hard

Perhaps you may have heard about the little skirmish that took place between KHL teams HC Chekov Vityaz and Avangard Omsk. A four-minute, bench-clearing brawl between the two teams was the "highlight" on every Russian television newscast last week, and it made its way across the pond thanks to YouTube. There were a lot of former NHL players involved in this brouhaha, but for something like this to erupt, there had to be some underlying unhappiness. And yesterday, the KHL handed down its most severe punishment to date.

First, let's set the stage. Here is the brawl, and nearly every player on the ice has a hand, or fist, in it.

Needless to say, this is one of those "wow" moments that you see maybe once per decade. The only other brawl I can think of that resembled this is the Punch-Up in Piestany in 1987.

Again, there were a number of former NHL players involved in this skirmish. Alexander Svitov, Anton Babchuk, Eric Perrin, Jakub Klepsis, Karri Ramo, Jaromir Jagr, and several others were either on the ice or joined the foray once the benches emptied. Two of the main combatants were Brandon Sugden and Darcy Verot, a couple of former minor-league enforcers in North America. So how did this unfold? What caused this situation to play out like it did?

According to reports, Darcy Verot of Vityaz fired a puck at Avangard's Lasse Kukkonen during the pre-game warm-up. Because of Verot's stupid decision, tension escalated quickly. Vityaz, having a number of pugilistic pros, began the chirping across the red line to the Avangard players. It is reported that Brandon Sugden, recently signed by Vityaz to replace Chris Simon, tackled Alexander Svitov and threw punches during the warm-up after a couple of players met at center ice.

According to Jaromir Jagr, the entire ordeal was started by Verot. "Their tough guy Darcy Verot threw the puck at one of our players," Jagr told "Then he skated to another our player at the red line and speared him."

The teams finally separated, and it appeared that things might be over. However, the Vityaz players were only getting started. Just 3:39 into the first period, the entire game fell apart, resulting in the video above.

Somehow, Jagr was paired up with Verot through the ordeal, and it seems that Verot decided to play by his own rules in this fight. "If you're a tough guy you should respect the honor code," Jagr continued. "There were people fighting around us and I was holding Verot. Then he told me: 'Ok, we are done. No fighting'. I released his hand and in a second he punched me in the face. I didn't see that coming and that's why I fell down."

As you know, I'm a huge believer of "the code" in hockey, and it works to ensure that fights are fair for both competitors. However, Verot's complete disregard for the rules of the code here is why he will always be a second-rate loser who will never have my respect.

"In the very beginning of the 1st period Darcy Verot attacked Jaromir Jagr, and this is not welcomed in our league," Anton Kuryanov of Avangard Omsk said to RHF. "Jagr plays hockey and if Verot wants to fight he should choose another sport."

Despite Avangard's feelings toward Verot, both teams were assessed an astounding 691 PIMs combined during the game, and the game was cancelled due to the fact that there were not enough players on either side to continue after all the game misconducts were handed out. Because of this, the KHL stepped in to review the game, and they made their findings known on Sunday.
  • For disruption of a KHL regular season match, both Vityaz and Avangard have forfeited the game and been issued 1,000,000 ruble (US$33,500) penalties.
  • As a result of harming the reputation of the KHL, its partners and Russian hockey in general, as well as a reflection of the totality of their violations and initiating the situation, Vityaz was fined an additional 3,000,000 rubles (US$100,750).
  • Head coaches Alexei Yarushkin of Vityaz and Igor Nikitin of Avangard were each fined 50,000 rubles (US$1,680).
  • Vityaz was formally warned of a possible expulsion from the KHL in the event of a recurrence of similar violations.
  • Most active participants in the conflict from each team – Darcy Verot, Brandon Sugden, Alexander Svitova and Dmitry Vlasenkova – were each fined 150,000 rubles (US$5,000).
  • The following players were suspended for one game – Vityaz: Darcy Verot, Brandon Sugden, Rustam Bahriddinov, Alexei Litvinenko and Dmitry Megalinsky; Avangard: Dmitry Vlasenko.
Wow. Those are some heavy fines considering the monetary values handed out.

Honestly, this kind of hockey is something you only hear of when people are referring to Slap Shot. But the fact that Darcy Verot and Brandon Sugden - two players who couldn't get signed by North American teams - are plying their trade in Russia seems to indicate that the KHL is a landing pad for players who can't cut it in North America, but still want a payday in hockey.

Second-rate hockey players will only produce second-rate hockey. I commend the KHL for throwing the book at Vityaz, and I would have gone one step further in terminating the contract of Verot for his stupidity.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Tom Samworth said...

You mention that Sugden was brought in to replace Chris Simon - is he injured or has he left the team?