January 10, 2010
Yesterday we reported about the brawl that took place in the KHL during a regular season game between Jaromir Jagr's(notes) Avangard Omsk and Vityaz Chekhov. The game was suspended after 3 minutes 39 seconds played in the first period. Most of the players received game misconduct penalties and there were simply not enough skaters to continue playing. It is a very rare occasion in hockey and was the first such instance in the history of Russian hockey.
The KHL disciplinary committee met for seven hours on Sunday to study the incident and to come up with adequate punishment. After the meeting was over, Vityaz Chekhov was found to be the instigator and was punished severely. It was established as a fact that during pre-game warm-ups Vityaz's Darcy Verot(notes) intentionally shot a puck at Avangard's Lasse Kukkonen(notes). Right after that happened, Alexander Svitov(notes) decided to stand up for his teammate and some pushing and shoving and word exchanges occurred. Team coaches managed to calm their players down with referees handing out warnings.
When the game got underway, Svitov checked Verot again and Brandon Sugden(notes) started "dancing" with Svitov. Verot took on Jagr. When the first brawl of the game was over, the game stat sheet read 186 penalty minutes. Seven seconds after the game was restarted, the second brawl took place sending 19 players to the locker room. The third brawl occurred after the game was resumed yet again, with the remaining players sent to the sin bin for the remainder of the game. There were no players left to actually play. Following the game, Avangard's President Anatoli Bardin told Sovetsky Sport that there was no place for Vityaz in the KHL, and that the club is an embarrassment to the league.
The KHL agreed. Sort of. Vityaz Chekhov was fined four million rubles (approximately $134,000 US) for causing the game to be suspended and for "damages caused to the reputation of the Kontinental Hockey League, its partners and Russian hockey as a whole, and for the aggregate violations and instigation." Avangard Omsk was fined one million rubles. Vityaz was also officially warned by the KHL that "it will be possible to exclude the club from the list of participants of the Kontinental Hockey League in the event of causing similar violations leading to suspension of a game of the regular season." Vityaz also lost six players to suspensions, including Verot and Sugden, while Avangard will be without one of its players when the team plays its next game.
It is interesting that one of the Vityaz players confessed that a fight was planned for the game. But he insisted that it was going to be a one-on-one or a two-on-two clash. Right after yesterday's incident, it was announced that Vityaz was bringing another minor leaguer to join their ranks in Josh Gratton(notes). Chris Simon(notes) has also reportedly rejoined the club after having his contract with the KHL club voided for "family reasons" some months earlier.
It is anyone's guess why Vityaz's General Manager, former Chicago Blackhawks captain Alexei Zhamnov(notes), needs these types of players. Goons like Verot and Sugden add very little value to the team in terms of actually playing hockey. Moreover, the KHL does not need these types of incidents when it is trying to position itself as an attractive option for hockey players who actually want to play the game and not watch their backs because someone like Verot feels like breaking the unwritten rules of hockey tough guys. That's exactly what happened when he jumped on Jagr. In his interview to Sovetsky Sport (to be published tomorrow), Jagr, who was visibly upset, commented on the incident. Here's the excerpt:
"If you're a tough guy, you must adhere to the honor code. People were fighting around us, and I was holding [Verot]. He told me ‘That's it. We won't fight.' I let him go. And a couple of seconds later this guy punched me in my face. I didn't expect a punch, that's why I fell."
It was cowardly of Verot.
"Yes. But this is the type of person he is... You know, I am OK with tough guys. I have seen quite a few in North America. They are good guys. It is their job to fight. And they do it honestly. When referees end the fight, that's it. You go your separate ways. These are the rules of the game."
"I don't even know what to call this person. I played with Sean Avery(notes) when I was with the New York Rangers. A lot was said about him. But he was an ordinary tough guy. He followed the code. As for Verot, he doesn't even know what this code is. Moreover, in [North America] everything is captured by five or six cameras. Not one episode is missed, whether it is a questionable goal, a sucker punch or something else. Every episode will certainly be looked at by the disciplinary committee, a punishment will be handed out, and a fine will be assessed.
Do such incidents kill your willingness to play in the KHL?
"I want the KHL to promptly reconsider the rules. Everything must be clearly addressed in the league's charter. If you fight, you will get a fine. If your opponent falls, the fight is stopped. If you start brawling during warm ups, take a seat for 20 games. The game will be more observable and clean. And when there are no rules, people do whatever they want...
The KHL is a new league. It is developing very quickly. If you want the KHL to be as strong as the NHL, you have to regulate fighting. Write out every nuance. Broadcast games and warm ups not with one, but with five cameras. Every game episode shall be [looked at] as if under a microscope. I know it is difficult. And the NHL has been around since 1917. But you cannot wait 90 years if you want to seriously compete with North Americans."