Naturally, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and other Division I leagues have struggled with mandates on player safety. While there are full-time people dedicated to officiating in the sport, there aren't enough of them, and the officials themselves have the impossible job of keeping the games as safe as possible.
Last week, we showed you a hit to the head by St. Cloud State forward Aaron Marvin, wondered out loud how a penalty wasn't called on the play, and asked if he should be suspended for the hit. Since the Huskies didn't play this past weekend, there was no reason to rush a disciplinary decision, so the league took their jolly ol' time making up their minds.
The verdict is in, and Marvin was banned for three games. Here is the information from the WCHA.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association today (March 1) announced it has suspended St. Cloud State University junior hockey player Aaron Marvin for the next three games as a result of his actions in a recent game played at the University of Wisconsin on February 20.
The supplemental disciplinary action was taken after discussions between officials at St. Cloud State University and the WCHA Executive Committee and Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod.
“Player safety is of paramount concern to all of us in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and players are responsible for conducting themselves in a proper manner,” said Nancy Sampson, Faculty Representative from the University of Denver and Chair of the Association and Commissioner McLeod in a joint statement. “Our student-athletes need to make every possible effort to play within the spirit of the rules and know that they will be held accountable for their actions.
“The Association, through its administrators and officials and member team administrators, coaches and student-athletes, will continue to work together to address concerns in a responsible and constructive way.”
From the sounds of it, SCSU is not on board with this move. They likely appealed it, which is why it took so long to get announced. However, when you're appealing a suspension to the people who handed it out, your odds aren't very good.
For Marvin, this should serve as a very important learning tool. You simply can't recklessly take your shoulder and plant it into someone's head. I don't care if Blake Geoffrion had his head down, and I don't care that he missed the weekend set at Michigan Tech.
(I hope he's okay, but the fact he was injured is meaningless to me. No suspension should be levied simply because of an injury, nor should one be avoided because a player wasn't seriously hurt. An illegal, suspendable hit is an illegal, suspendable hit, no matter the damage to the player involved. Frankly, Marvin's earlier suspension is more relevant than Geoffrion's condition.)
The school was notified of the possible suspension late last week, so the delay in an announcement -- this season, WCHA suspensions have typically been announced on the Wednesday or Thursday after the game in question -- is more than likely due to an appeal on their part. While that's fine and dandy and SCSU was well within their rights, fans and others should stop crabbing about the timing of the suspension.
It's right in line with others handed out this year and in the recent past, especially those where the school decided to agree with the league, creating a joint disciplinary announcement of sorts.
(An example of one of these would be from earlier this year, when UMD's Chad Huttel got a one-game ban. The school and league worked it out, and the school announced the suspension the Wednesday before a Friday game.)
In this case, no language in the WCHA press release indicates any cooperation from St. Cloud State.
Other players need to learn from this, too. The league values its playoff games. The conference tournament is important to everyone. They value the idea of player safety more, and now it's their job to stay consistent with this stance. Instead of letting players take more liberties as the games become more important, the WCHA needs to watch even closer, making certain that the guys on the ice are as safe as possible.
(The argument against this suspension is it leaves Marvin out for a playoff game. While a message needed to be sent, it's defensible to say that this is too much, even for a "repeat offender.")
Marvin's a good player. He doesn't need to be cheap to be effective, and he doesn't need the reputation of "cheap player" circling over him like a storm cloud. For his sake, let's hope he gets this message loud and clear before it's too late.