As the video from the bench-clearing brawl between the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) and Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) continues to make the rounds on YouTube and hockey blogs everywhere, the teams learned the consequences of their actions today when the AHL handed out multiple suspensions.
The Griffins’ Louis-Marc Aubry and the IceHogs’ Rob Flick (pictured above) were both handed six-game suspensions for being the first players on their team to leave their respective benches and join in the fray. Additional suspensions were given to Grand Rapids’ Triston Grant (one game) and Rockford’s Kyle Beach, Kenndal McArdle and Wade Brookbank (one game each). Ted Dent, head coach of the IceHogs, also received a two-game suspension. Both teams were fined an undisclosed amount and will likely proceed with caution when they meet again on Feb. 22.
The AHL really dropped the ball here in not punishing Beach further. Multiple videos of the incident show him as the main aggressor, jumping the Griffins’ Riley Sheahan after a second period face off. Beach was assessed an aggressor and an instigator penalty, yet only gets suspended one game? The league now seems to be saying that setting off a brawl, that results in more than 230 penalty minutes, is only worth one game’s punishment, even for a player with a checkered history. McArdle can be seen skating around and hitting players in the back of the head who were already engaged in fights, and that is also only a one game suspension? The AHL sent a simple message with these suspensions: Goonish behavior is okay, leaving the bench is not. Dent even had the audacity to blame the referees for causing the melee, as his team was assessed five consecutive minor penalties, leading to two Griffins goals.
The IceHogs lead the AHL in penalty minutes, and Dent sent out five players with a combined 13 fighting majors out against a Griffins line with only one. He knew exactly what he was doing and deserves his suspension, but by not appropriately punishing all players involved, the AHL missed a chance to send a stronger message.