Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Details Emerge On The Melee

If you were listening to the first half of The Hockey Show last week or happened to read this blog, you know that the bench-clearing brawl that happened in the AUS between the Acadia Axemen and the St. Francis-Xavier X-Men was a topic. I wrote a piece about the incident, but details have emerged today after the AUS wrapped up their investigation into the matter that also prompted that to hand out more punishment to several people involved. With this new information, I feel that the AUS, which correct in assessing more punishment, may have missed an opportunity to send a clear message to its student-athletes and staff of the schools participating in the conference.

If we go back a week ago, you'll recall that there were mandatory suspensions handed out to both teams' players for their involvement in the altercation. In total, six Acadia players and nine from the X-Men as well as both head coaches racked up 39 games in suspensions in total with suspensions ranging between two to five games. Aaron Hoyles from StFX received five games as the maximum suspension from that school while Acadia's Cole Reginato received a four-game break from action for his role in the brawl.

The AUS had promised that they would issue more suspensions "due to the seriousness of the allegations" in which StFX's Sam Studnicka was the recipient of an insult that apparently inferred some sort of terminology regarding sexual assault from Acadia's Rodney Southam. None of what Southam said was disclosed at the time, but Southam did admit following the game that he had made a comment towards Studnicka that sparked the brawl. Acadia's statement a few days later all but confirmed that Southam's comments were not only what set off the powder keg, but he had admitted to trying to apologize for making the comment.

Today, the details and new punishments were revealed by the AUS. They are as follows:
  • Acadia head coach Darren Burns was suspended 8 additional games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • Acadia assistant coach Kris MacDonald was suspended 2 games, and has already served that suspension by not being behind the bench for the team's final two regular season games.
  • Acadia defenceman TJ Fergus was suspended 3 games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • Acadia defenceman Loch Morrison was suspended 5 games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • Acadia forward Rodney Southam was suspended 5 games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • StFX head coach Brad Peddle was suspended 8 additional games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • StFX assistant coach Dave Stewart was suspended 1 game, and has already served that suspension by not being behind the bench for the team's final two regular season games.
  • StFX defenceman Aaron Hoyles was suspended 2 games on top of the 5-game suspension he was originally assessed.
  • StFX forward Mark Tremaine was suspended for 2 games on top of the 2-game suspension he was originally assessed.
It's pretty clear that a number of the men above will not only miss the quarterfinal series between StFX and Acadia with these new sanctions, but will miss the entire playoffs altogether. Both coaches were singled out by AUS, and AUS executive director Phil Currie made a direct reference to the coaches for their actions and, ultimately, lack of action in contributing to the brawl.

"The bench side of things could have been handled much better," Currie said in an interview with CBC News. "You know we expect that in our regulations in terms of coaches' conduct and how they handle these situations."

If you note the list above, Southam was given some extended time off, and the details of his part in this were also revealed last week when he admitted saying to Studnicka, "You look like a little rapist," which prompted Studnicka to pummel Southam and the StFX bench to respond as they did. Southam also stated that he was unaware that Studnicka has a sexual assault survivor in his family.

And that's where the facts end and my opinion begins because what Southam said to Studnicka is not only despicable, but shows that he has zero recognition for the gravity of that statement even after Southam had been falsely accused of sexual assault when he played junior hockey in Western Canada! The fact that Southam showed that he has zero thought-process between his brain and his mouth while on the ice is why giving Southam a seven-game suspension for this abhorrent comment misses the mark entirely in my opinion.

While I don't condone Studnicka's reaction to the comment, I also am not surprised by his reaction and I find that the AUS excusing him from further punishment to be rather refreshing considering that most of these decisions are based on public image and not on the impact it has on the people involved. This is clearly a topic that is close to Studnicka's heart based on his reaction, and I don't blame him for reacting angrily towards Southam after his comments. I would hope that this is the last time Studnicka has to hear anything like this in his life, but that's why I believe that Southam's admitted actions should have garnered him a more lengthy suspension.

If there is one person from Acadia University worthy of a little redemption in all of this, it might be Kevin Dickie, Acadia's executive director of athletics, who seems to understand the bigger picture here and how it affects not only Studnicka, but everyone involved from the two schools as well as Studnicka's family. He told CBC News, "Our student-athlete and all of those associated from Acadia Athletics, regret and continue to be very apologetic for what was said and how it affected another student-athlete and his family."

In the end, the AUS followed through on its promise to issue more punishments, so it can at least be held to its word. While I still believe the AUS could have come down harder on Southam and Acadia University as a whole, especially after that idiotic statement they released last Weednesday, the fact that a few people had their seasons ended early this year is a stark reminder that words have power, both good and bad. Let this lesson not go forgotten the next time you're thinking of delivering a chirp to end all chirps because the consequences could be - and should be, in this case - far more dire than the seven-game suspension that Rodney Southam received.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Peter said...

Studnicka needs serious anger management counseling.
His reaction was beyond acceptable.
Words or not, it's just words. His violent actions could have resulted in injury or worse for multiple people involved.

What was said to him wasn't acceptable at any level, but I am sure he will hear worse in his career.

Now everyone will have to skate around him and watch what they say because he literally has a trigger (that was unintentionally set off) and if this was off the ice, was a criminal act.

Teebz said...

It's hard to believe that Southam would use the term he did - rapist - without knowing that it would set Studnicka off. This was pre-meditated by Southam. That's not a common insult on the ice as far as I've ever experienced.

Second, if Southam had gone through being falsely accused while playing junior, why would he even consider uttering that kind of insult?

Like it or not, Southam knew exactly what he was doing. Your accusation of him needing anger management is pretty unfounded considering that he notified his coach of Southam's comments which resulted in an unsportsmanlike penalty to Southam prior to the fight. On top of that, how exactly would someone say something worse to him when he's seen the effects of sexual assault on someone in his family?

"If this happens off the ice" is a strawman. Carrying a stick and slashing people on the hands is assault with a weapon off the ice, yet it's a two-minute break in hockey.