Canadian university hockey often runs a deeper and wider gamut of emotions than other brands of the sports. Each game, due to a shorter season, has more stakes, the rivalries between programs are intense and players who have come up through leagues that do not have an automatic ejection for fighting have to learn to play without that so-called outlet.
In 1996, Moncton Aigles Bleus players assaulted a referee after a delayed call on a season-ending overtime goal. On Saturday, when the Nipissing Lakers were all the all over but the crying stage of their season-ending 8-3 loss to the Trois-Rivières Patriotes in the Ontario University Athletics East division semifinal, a skirmish broke out on the ice. And TVA Sports captured video that shows that Lakers first-year defenceman Brett Cooke, an Ontario Hockey League grad, punched linesman Nicolas Piché at least twice. Piché, in the unabridged footage, looks like he was shaken up. He was not seriously injured and it sounds like he will not press this with the police, but an official does not give implied consent to get punched by a player.
No wonder it's tough for officials to stay in hockey over the long term when they are treated this poorly. Between this and a 17-year-old referee allegedly being kicked by an irate spectator who was upset by the calls made during a novice game, it's been a week of stories about how officials just are not given the respect.
Many in Quebec are calling for Cook to be banned from OUA men's hockey. While the game was in Quebec, Hockey Quebec has no jurisdiction over the matter.
An eyebrow should probably be arched over the apparent lack of remorse Nipissing has shown. Perhaps apologizing seems like an admission of culpability, who knows.
From Nicolas Ducharme:
Lakers head coach Mike McParland defended his player after the game.
"I haven't seen (Cook's) actions," he told QMI Agency. "What I saw is that the referee hit our guy first and made him bleed. He wasn't bleeding when he came to our bench, and suddenly, he was. The linesman abused him."
Piche had not filed a complaint as of Tuesday and was not seriously injured. He declined an interview request.
Ontario University Athletics (OUA) also had no comment on the incident but league official Brian Crawford told QMI that the conference has a "no-tolerance policy for such actions."
"Sanctions could range from an official letter of apology to a lifetime ban, according to league rules," he said. (QMI Agency)
The old Le Colisée in Trois-Rivières has long been a house of horrors for visiting OUA teams. There's more to it than the length of the bus trip and the Patriotes being a perennial Top 10 team. With no QMJHL team in the city, the Patriotes are the only game in town and the support they get against teams from big-city Montreal such as Concordia and McGill and the OUA teams in Ontario proper has a certain retrograde tribal quality, us vs. them.
McParland claimed in the local North Bay Nugget that Trois-Rivières tried to throw off his team with a bit of gamesmanship.
"A lot started before the game,” he said. “There wasn't enough room for the players in the dressing room because we were given one room and not two.”
He said the game also started late, which threw the team off as well.
“At 2 p.m. they hadn't even had the Zamboni on the ice, which made the game 10 to 12 minutes late,” McParland said. (North Bay Nugget)
The rub is this isn't about whether Trois-Rivières sank to cheap gamesmanship to throw off an opponent before an elimination game. (If it did, though, it's classless and unprofessional, especially coming from an institution which was welcomed into the OUA as an associate member for men's hockey because there are not enough teams for a Quebec-only conference.)
It also isn't about university hockey proscribing fisticuffs. It's about behaviour that's internalized and tacitly approved at every step along the way in hockey. The one thread tying this to the story about a teenage ref being accosted in Port Perry, Ont., is the attitude cultivated in hockey toward officials. Too many people believe the zebras are just a nuisance instead of being needed.
Several parents confronted a 17-year-old referee following a novice hockey game at the Scugog Arena on Feb. 19, claiming they were unhappy with officiating, say Durham police.
The teen referee was followed out of the arena by a parent and then threatened and later kicked in the back of his legs from behind by a disgruntled parent, say police.
The incident was witnessed by several parents and children, add authorities. (durhamregion.com)
Brett Cook is not the first to cross the line and will not be last. There will probably never be a last. The one enduring belief, of course, is that hockey is too good a game to be ruined by such behaviour.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.