KHL President Alexander Medvedev gave a briefing in Moscow about the decisions made by the KHL Disciplinary Committee and the KHL Executive Board concerning HC Vityaz and HC Traktor.
“If you take a journey through history, you will find that in the National Hockey League battles between highly specialized players has been part of the show,” Medvedev began. “And in our hockey we also have had fights on the ice, and not just one against one, but even team against team. However, these erupted from developments in the game and were not a special part of the show. At present, the Vityaz team’s play has become just such a part of the show, but in a somewhat altered form. I want to say that “tough guys” did not arrive at Vityaz together with coach Andrei Nazarov; in fact, some arrived a little while beforehand. But this season their numbers have grown unexpectedly high. There is no problem when one tough guy confronts a fellow tough guy, or when players come together in a straight fist fight, defending themselves and their team mates or when emotions boil over. But some things are totally unacceptable: dirty play, sly punches, choosing to attack someone who is unprepared, or someone physically weaker than yourself who has never before been in a single fight.
The situation toward the end of the Vityaz vs. Traktor game was scrutinized in detail by the KHL Disciplinary Committee. I will note that yesterday against Avtomobilist the Chekhov club displayed superb hockey and scored some beautiful goals. And the game was still by no means a soft one. With this in mind I tell you that the KHL Executive Board has examined the question posed by the Disciplinary Committee regarding the further participation of HC Vityaz in the Kontinental Hockey League, and decided against expelling the club. This is the judgment of both the KHL Executive Board and the Council of Club Owners. The decision was taken on the grounds that the League has enough in its armory to prevent a repeat of similar incidents.
The Vityaz player Jeremy Yablonski has already accumulated 10 games of suspensions, and taking into account his disgraceful behavior – thank God his full-force punch from behind did not cause serious injury – the League has decided to disqualify him from playing for the remainder of the regular season. That is, Yablonski must miss 26 games.
The Chekhov team’s player Christopher Brennan also has quite a long history of suspensions. In the game with Traktor the entire refereeing staff on duty was unable to calm him down. There is a rule: once the referee intervenes in a conflict, to argue back and especially to push and jostle the referee is forbidden. Considering all the circumstances, the League has decided to extend the length of Brennan’s disqualification from 12 to 15 games.
Another Vityaz player, Alexander Sazonov, will be disqualified for one game.
Vityaz head coach Andrei Nazarov and the club itself will be punished for failing to take measures to prevent the conflict from erupting and also for the coach’s failure to take part in the press conference after the match.
When there is a conflict on the rink and a sixth player appears on the ice, this is bound to trigger a mass brawl. With this in mind, Traktor player Alexei Vasilchenko, in leaving the bench to go out onto the ice, is deemed to have created a situation of increased risk - one which could have led to the game being abandoned. He is disqualified for 5 games.
In addition, we issue a stern warning to Traktor hockey club for the failure of its head coach to attend the post-game press conference. Traktor head coach Valery Belousov is also fined for his failure to prevent the sixth player from going onto the ice.
And a few words about the future. The League is preparing a ruling which will mean players from the USA or Canada shall only be admitted to play in the KHL Championship (excluding those already drafted) according to a special criterion: the number of games they have played in the NHL. The exact number is yet to be set, but is expected to be between 80 and 120 games. Such demands will not be introduced for players arriving from Europe. This limit will prevent the possibility of such a high number of fighters playing at one club, as is currently the case with Vityaz. With this method the road to the KHL for players such as Chris Simon will not be closed.
I will also add that the League is preparing changes to the rules regarding hits to the head, attacks of the “knee-to-knee” variety, and dangerous play by the boards. Punishments for such acts will be even harsher than the punishments given to those players fond of using their fists.
All changes are currently being prepared and will be implemented by the end of the season.