Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wisconsin's Ryan Little Earns First WCHA Supplemental Discipline of Season

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Greetings from Anchorage, where it's shockingly mild, and we finally started to get daylight around 9:15am local time.

(Enjoy it while it lasts, Ciskie. It'll be dark by 4:00.)

Anyway, more content on the UMD-UAA series is coming before Friday's series opener at Sullivan Arena. For now, I wanted to discuss some news that broke while we were traveling Wednesday.

Not so long ago, I was lamenting the fact that we have yet to see any supplemental discipline in the WCHA this season, despite numerous opportunities to send a message and make sure kids are held accountable for dangerous and illegal play.

On Friday, there was an egregiously dirty play by Michigan Tech freshman Jujhar Khaira in Madison, as he went vintage Sting on the bit with a Scorpion Death Drop on Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe, complete with a facemask grab to start the whole thing off. Officials assessed a two-minute minor for holding, and Khaira was inexplicably allowed to play in Saturday's series finale.

Obviously, what happened late in overtime could have happened to anyone, but it's hard to imagine it's a coincidence that one of Wisconsin's seniors -- alternate captain Ryan Little -- happened to throw an equally dirty hit on Khaira.

Little was suspended one game by the WCHA, as announced by the league Wednesday afternoon.

Listen, I'm not going to sit here and rip the WCHA for inconsistent enforcement of hockey rules that govern basic competitive decency. The fact Khaira didn't get a game DQ for his actions is a joke, and the league needs to be willing to step in a spot like there where the officials somehow bungle the call.

(You know, like Saturday, when there was no penalty assessed to Little.)

However, one miss does NOT justify two misses. In this particular incident, Little launches himself into a player (Khaira) who doesn't have the puck, and during the sequence you see on this short video, Khaira doesn't ever have possession. Little appears to launch toward Khaira's head, which makes it even worse.

This should have been a major and a game disqualification, but instead was nothing. That's not excusable, but supplemental discipline exists -- in part -- to help governing bodies penalize plays like this that are missed by game officials.

It's inherently wrong to suggest that no player should be eligible for a suspension unless a penalty is called on the play in question, and it's also wrong to suggest that leagues suspend officials for missing these calls.

In the WCHA, officials work part-time. There is no need to publicly scrutinize these guys any more than what we already do (I'll raise my hand on this one). As we saw with the Randy Schmidt debacle in Denver a few years ago, the WCHA doesn't like to publicly announce anything regarding game officials, and typically won't unless it's a major deal.

In this case, the league has screwed up more than the officials did. The league missed a chance to send a message to Khaira, a hell of a talent who plays the game on edge and already is developing a reputation as the kind of player who will cross the line once in a while. That edge will get him places when you look at his size and skill set, but if he doesn't tone it down, we'll be wondering about potential WCHA supplemental discipline again, because he'll cross the line again.

Thursday, however, it's Little who pays a price for crossing the line. It's a justified suspension, and hopefully that sends a message to players, too.

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