After another intense weekend of hockey in the elite league, criticism towards the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) has escalated to a dangerous level with one player claiming that “safety is now in the hands of the players.”
The catalyst behind the criticism follows the board’s ruling on Sheffield Steelers forward Colton Fretter, who was given a one match ban for charging against Belfast player Spiro Goulakos.
In the third period of the match, which took place on October the 22nd, Fretter was checked from behind by Goulakos, a hit that wasn’t called by referee Mike Hicks. Fretter decided to take action into his own hands, getting up and taking many strides before using both fists to hit an unaware Goulakos in the head. The pair then tussled after the hit, where Goulakos has been accused of kicking Fretter.
The hit was called on the night by Hicks as checking from behind, with Fretter receiving a 5+ game penalty. Ron Shudra, Steelers TV guest on the night, felt the retaliation from Fretter could have been avoided had Hicks called “an absolute blatant run from behind” by Goulakos, who’s been given a three-match ban for his actions in the game.
The ruling on the incident comes after news on Tuesday that Guildford Flames forward David Lillieström Karlsson has been forced to retire after suffering a concussion.
Belfast players, including coach Adam Keefe, have posted tweets towards DOPS displaying their anger at the decision. Keefe isn’t the first coach this season to speak out against the board.
In an interview last week, Manchester Storm coach Ryan Finnerty expressed his frustration as DOPS upgraded a 5+ game penalty on Jay Rosehill for checking to the head to a two-match ban:
“We don’t expect to see the league come down like this on us. This is a bad decision. Where do DOPS go from here?
“Anybody who’s played the game can tell [from] Jays body language that there was no intent to hit him.”
A petition on change.org has been made in an attempt to restructure the board, which has already received 350 signatures with a goal to achieve 500.
The board, according to the Elite League website, is “run by Head of Referees Simon Kirkham. He is in charge of receiving requests and reviewing incidents, aided by a panel of up to 5 ‘hockey people’ from various different countries, who will also review the incidents.
“Due to the tight deadlines the other members of the committee may change, this is one of the reasons why they are not named. The members of this committee are not known by the Elite League board or any of the teams, so there is no chance decisions can be influenced.”
Cardiff Devils forward, Joey Martin believes the decision to only have one referee in matches is partly to blame, tweeting this:
“This league has become too competitive to have only one referee. Games are not managed and have clearly got out of hand.”
As another weekend of hockey fast approaches and the number of voices against the board increases daily, it’s clear that DOPS can’t remain silent for much longer.