Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blais Comments on Zombo Suspension

On Tuesday, the WCHA shocked some -- namely me -- by suspending Nebraska Omaha freshman forward Dominic Zombo one game for a kneeing incident during Saturday's game against UMD.

If you were listening to our broadcast, or you follow me on Twitter, you know how upset I was by the hit. Zombo clearly was guilty of a blatant knee-on-knee hit on JT Brown, a hit that probably should have been a five-minute major penalty.

Instead, referees Brad Shepherd and Todd Anderson gave Zombo a two-minute minor penalty for roughing.

(Yes, I know the WCHA said in its statement announcing the suspension that Zombo was penalized for kneeing. But the penalty on Zombo was announced in the arena as roughing, it was posted on the live stats as roughing, and it still appears on the official box score as roughing.)

It was clearly intentional knee-on-knee contact, and a hit similar to one that knocked Vancouver Canucks forward David Booth out of the lineup for over a month. That particular hit led to a four-game suspension for Colorado's Kevin Porter. There is no justification for this hit, and no way to excuse it as some effort to deliver a clean check. It was a dirty play, and one that the WCHA was totally justified in acting on.

Of course, that doesn't mean UNO coach Dean Blais thinks it was all handled properly. Blais told the Omaha World Herald that he felt Brown should have faced discipline, too. No, not for falling down after the hit.

Blais said Tuesday that he doesn't disagree with Zombo's suspension, but that he also wants the WCHA to discipline Brown. According to his players, Blais said Brown flashed an obscene gesture after the second of his three goals in Friday's victory by the top-ranked Bulldogs.

"You suspended Zombo for a hit, OK. Now, what are you going to do with J.T. Brown?" Blais said. "To me, that's worse than the hit."

... "I'm OK with the penalty," Blais said. "And I'm OK with the suspension. But I'm not OK with learning (Monday), in discussing with my team, what had happened.

"It's funny how the hockey gods will punish a player from the night before. Zombo didn't go out looking for the hit on J.T. Brown. It's not a payback. But things have a way of evening out." 

Listen, I respect Blais a great deal. But he's allowed to be dead wrong about something, and he is here.

I don't know if Brown was guilty of an obscene gesture. I didn't see it when I watched the game back on DVR Sunday, but I also wasn't looking for it. I've since deleted the game, because I didn't see any reason to keep it.

While I'd be the first to criticize such behavior -- frankly, I'm not a fan of obscene gestures in any situations -- criticizing the behavior and asking for a suspension are two different things.

I can't imagine the WCHA issuing a one-game suspension to a player guilty of an obscene gesture. Yes, the league endorsed a two-game suspension for North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol that was the result of an obscene gesture the coach made at a referee in 2008. But that was a school-imposed suspension. Of a coach.

If Scott Sandelin flipped off Shepherd and Anderson during the game, I'd be all in favor of suspending him for a game or a weekend series. Coaches should be held to a higher behavioral standard than players.

If Brown did what Blais and his players allege, he should face internal punishment, but not a league-imposed one-game suspension. That's just silly. Are we going to start suspending players who swear at the opposing bench, too?

As for Blais' reference to the hockey gods when it comes to Brown being left in a heap on the ice by an illegal hit ... well, I'd prefer not to dignify it with a remark.

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