UFA – At a press conference at Ufa Arena prior to the medal games, the IIHF spelled out in detail the factors that led to a four-game suspension for Canadian defenceman Griffin Reinhart.
The presentation included video evidence and comments from the tournament disciplinary panel of Jeff Sauer and Dan Marouelli. Sauer is a former NCAA hockey coach and 2011 Lester Patrick Trophy recipient. Marouelli served as an NHL referee from 1984 to 2010 and officiated 1,411 NHL games (plus 179 post-season games).
Reinhart was suspended for an incident in the Canada-U.S. quarter-final in which his stick struck American forward Vince Trocheck in the head and neck area. Reinhart was ruled ineligible to play in the bronze medal game against Russia and in the first three games of the next IIHF championship in which he may participate.
“Our goal is player safety. We do everything possible to have our game played safely,” said IIHF President René Fasel, who expressed concern regarding incomplete information on the suspension in the Canadian media.
Drawing a parallel to the video explanations on rulings given by Brendan Shanahan of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, Fasel introduced Marouelli and Sauer by saying: “I would like to give these gentlemen an opportunity to explain their decision. I support them 100 per cent.”
Marouelli explained the procedure at a disciplinary review and hearing: “We get the referee’s report and referee supervisor’s report. We get the medical report and DVD footage. We watch the video as many times as necessary – at full speed and slowed-down – and the player gets an opportunity to comment on and explain his actions as well. Jeff and I run through the clip again and explain what our concerns might be, and then we open it up to discussion, and [the player and his representative] can present anything they need.”
What were the specific factors that led to the Reinhart suspension? Screening a video clip of the incident, Marouelli said: “You’re going to see the Canadian player and the U.S. player become entangled in the corner. Prior to that, the Canadian player has possession of the puck. Once he becomes entangled with the U.S. player, he chooses not to play the puck anymore and falls to his knees. He’s lost the puck and he’s making eye contact with his opponent. He makes a bad choice. He strikes his opponent in a two-handed fashion with his stick.”
Marouelli clarified: “He sees his opponent. He knows where his opponent is. There’s no contact made with the stick of his opponent that would cause it to come up into his face. In our opinion, he deliberately struck the U.S. player in the side of the head with his stick.”
This is why the Disciplinary Panel described the action as “very careless, dangerous and avoidable” and levied a four-game suspension.
Marouelli also noted that this was not the most severe suspension in IIHF tournament history, as some media outlets had claimed.
Slovak defenceman Martin Marincin was suspended for four games for a hit to the head of the U.S.’s Jason Zucker at the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo. Swedish forward Mika Hannula was suspended for a total of five games for a hit from behind on Canada’s Sidney Crosby at the 2006 IIHF World Championship in Riga. French forward Sacha Treille received a five-game ban for a hit to the head of Kazakhstan’s Roman Starchenko at the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki.
Sauer stated: “We represent the world of hockey. We want to represent the sport in a positive way. It’s a tough game. Players play big. It’s a very physical game. But in the rulebook there is no legal contact to the head. Period. It doesn’t matter who the two teams are. There has to be accountability.”
Fasel indicated that the disciplinary panel will also be given the opportunity to explain the rationale behind other suspensions in the future. “We would like to be transparent,” he said. “Player safety is very important, and as long as I’m President, I will fight for that, especially in the junior games.”
Tournament chairman Frank Gonzalez noted that the disciplinary panel is not involved in the assignments of officials to games: these are made by referee supervisors and confirmed by the IIHF Directorate.
Fasel concluded: “It’s a very special place to be here in Ufa, Russia. I wish you all a safe trip home and a Happy New Year, and I look forward to seeing you in Stockholm and Helsinki for the 2013 IIHF World Championship, and then in Malmö, Sweden for the next World Juniors.”