Two teams. Two news releases.
Two leagues. Two notes of support.
Two different messages. That about sums up what we got today in the wake of incidents last Saturday night in the CCHA and the WCHA.
First, the more severe one. Michigan State has suspended Corey Tropp and Andrew Conboy for the rest of the season after Conboy delivered a clothesline to the head of Michigan’s Steve Kampfer and Tropp took a slash at Kampfer’s head on the ice. It was a vicious attack, and the penalty seems to fit the crime.
In Michigan State’s news release, coach Rick Comley said:
“What happened near the end of the game this weekend is not the way in which we want our hockey program represented. We cannot condone their actions. We felt that we had to send a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated.
“However, one thing needs to be clear — this was an incident that was an emotional, split-second action, for which these players are being punished. I do not want this to be portrayed that this was anything pre-meditated, or that any single player was ‘targeted.’ Their reaction, while inappropriate, was a split-second response that I know that they wish they could have back.”
The CCHA followed up with a release of its own, saying it supports the decision to suspend the players.
Over in the WCHA, Denver reacted to the unusual event of coach George Gwozdecky’s ejection and subsequent on-ice parade last Saturday with a note of disapproval. Senior associate athletic director Ron Grahame said:
“We have discussed the incident with George, and he understands that his behavior was unacceptable. George’s actions were very much out of character. We respect the integrity of not only the University of Denver, but the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as well.”
The WCHA answered with a release, saying it also doesn’t condone the action and is satisfied that Denver resolved the matter promptly.
That’s quite a difference in messages. One says we won’t tolerate anything of this sort and backs it up. The other says we’re disappointed in you, but we’re not going to do anything further.
I thought the WCHA would have been more supportive of its officials, who basically were shown up by Gwozdecky’s choke sign, standing on the boards and walk across the ice at them. You can tell me all you want that Gwozdecky was looking for a way to his locker room, but I’m still going to be skeptical, knowing that the visitors’ locker room at Ralph Engelstad Arena is directly behind the tunnel from the visitors’ bench.
Gwozdecky isn’t alone in the blame, however. It appeared that referee Todd Anderson was doing his fair share of jawing right back at the coach and Denver players, when he should have taken the high road.
The WCHA bylaws circa 2007-08 say that a first offense for a coach using “obscene gestures or profane or unduly provocative language or action toward officials” is punished with a public reprimand. A repeat offense is met with a public reprimand and a suspension for up to 20 percent of the scheduled contests.
Gwozdecky has been ejected before. On Feb. 24, 2006, Anderson ran him from a game against the Sioux at Magness Arena after he got on top of the boards to protest a no-call. It’s interesting that last Saturday’s event didn’t qualify as a repeat offense.
There is no real apples-to-apples comparison between the Michigan State and Denver events, given the nature of the offenses. But I think Michigan State and the CCHA had the right idea, while Denver and the WCHA could have done better.