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K’s never asked for review of Bondra hits

January 13, 2019

I gave a pretty scathing indictment to the ECHL in the early morning hours and it turns out that I might have had my sights set in the wrong direction. The ECHL informed me this morning that the Komets never asked for a review of Radovan Bondra’s actions from Fort Wayne’s 3-2 overtime victory Friday in Indianapolis.

Therefore, no discipline : suspension or fine : could be doled out in accordance with its rules.

Before you freak out on this, let’s unpack this.

-- First, here’s what we’re talking about. Fort Wayne’s Taylor Crunk was suspended four games for punching Bondra, who was at the bottom of a pile, and for being a repeat offender. Fort Wayne’s all-star, Justin Hodgman, was fined for getting a fighting major and game misconduct as an aggressor for punching and bloodying Zach Miskovic, an incident that, by the way, injured Hodgman’s hand. However, I called out the ECHL because it didn’t even fine Bondra for his two boarding penalties in the game : a major against Cody Sol and an even worse hit on Kevin Gibson, who was crouched and in a vulnerable position, that drew a minor : that I felt could have really sent a statement about safeguarding players.

-- However, according to the ECHL, the Komets never explicitly asked those plays to be reviewed. That is befuddling on a number of levels: many within the organization weren’t happy with those hits, from management to the players in the locker room; the fans were certainly irate about it; and you knew Crunk was going to come out with a suspension so why not go after the guy who had set him off with something far more egregious? If you’re wondering who is in charge of sending in tape to the league, it’s the coaching staff or, maybe very infrequently, the general manager.

-- Is there a downside to asking for a review? Yes. It costs $100 per play, which is understandable since every team could ask every day for plays to be looked at and it’s one person, senior vice president of hockey operations Joe Ernst, doing the reviewing. From what I’ve always heard, the Komets aren’t a team that sends much to the league. That can be a good thing because it means if they’re asking for a review, it’s probably something worth looking at. So, maybe in their eyes they felt this was just going to be a fine and it wasn’t worth their time. On the other hand, the players want to be stood up for, too. And what’s very clear to me this morning is everyone plays a part in league safety, even the coaches and general managers, so if the system is set up this way then asking for reviews is almost a responsibility.

-- So you’re wondering, there must be some things that are automatically reviewed, right? Yes, any plays that result in game misconducts or match penalties are automatically looked at by the league. That’s what made this situation so weird. Hodgman’s ejection was relatively rare : a fighting major and an aggressor, with no combatant on the other team : and that’s how Hodgman wound up getting a fine while Bondra’s plays weren’t even looked at despite two bad hits on the same night. As for Crunk, the Fuel asked the league to look at what he did.

-- Could this system be fixed? Yes, 100 percent. The ECHL should be reviewing all non-fighting majors. That’s not adding much work. And at the very least, that would have gotten the Bondra hit on Sol looked at by Ernst. Maybe all checks to the head and/or boardings?

-- It’s tempting, very tempting, to say that Ernst should have carte blanche to look at any hit. I mean, I’m willing to bet he’d at least heard about the Bondra-on-Gibson hit because I’ve been trumpeting how dirty it was, but it’s important to remember that media coverage in other ECHL markets is very different than it is in places like Fort Wayne or Toledo. So would it be fair that the league came in on an infraction in Fort Wayne because it was getting so much attention and then missed the same thing happening in, say, Kalamazoo because it wasn’t? I don’t know what the answer there is. It may sort of be like instant replay on goals; either do it or don’t.

jcohn@jg.net

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