Fifteen games for “off ice fighting”, 12 for “eye gouging” and ten each for “kneeing to the head” and “excessive roughness (driving opponent’s head into the ice).
That’s the rap sheet of Hull’s Derek Campbell this morning as he begins one of the longest suspensions ever handed out by a British hockey governing body, certainly the longest ever handed out in the EIHL. In case you’re still wondering what on earth he did to deserve not so much being hit with the banning hammer as having his career beaten to an early death with it, here’s the video of Campbell’s offences vs Dundee:
Leaving aside any discussion of the initial hit from Nico Sacchetti (which in my opinion is hard but relatively clean-we see four or five of those a game along the boards in the EIHL but most of the time the player stays on their feet), what Derek Campbell does goes way beyond anything you could term “acceptable” retribution even before he leaves the ice and then comes halfway across the rink to attack a player off the ice, and he well deserves his ban.
But more importantly, the Derek Campbell suspension will (hopefully) be remembered as something of a turning point for the EIHL. Moray Hanson is the disciplinary head this year, and to be frank, he inherited a system that was considered something of a joke. The early season did nothing to remove that view, as a head-butt was somehow only considered to be one game, a blatant sucker punch was (again) allowed to pass with only one game, while two wildly differing checks to the head were given three and four games respectively, with a check from behind three and a stumble into a referee six. It got to the point where the EIHL disciplinary system, or at least the ban length allocation, could easily have been decided by a blind block chucking half a brick at a hopscotch board in a car park for all we knew.
With Campbell’s suspension and actions being hit fast and hard by Moray Hanson, though, the EIHL disciplinary pussycat has finally, it appears, discovered that it can actually use those sharp things on its feet and more to the point use them to allocate justice in a solid fashion.
To put it simply, Moray Hanson is not mucking around any more.
There remains a cloud on the horizon-the EIHL, in a ludicrous situation, have yet to decide whether or not they’re going to make Hull play 46 games with one import player sitting out “in order to ensure the ban is served” despite the team acting in the only way they possibly could in response to Campbell’s conduct and terminating his contract. If they do, then frankly it’s ridiculous-in no other hockey league in the world (unless specifically stated) is a ban allocated to a player imposed on a team even after that team has cut a player, and it’s very rare if at all that said sanction has ever been applied in UK hockey. To apply it now would be an unjust punishment on the remaining Hull Stingrays and go beyond the strict to the needlessly vindictive.
There has been all sorts of hand-wringing (mostly from fans of opposition teams) about how allowing Hull to replace Campbell would “set some sort of precedent”. One can only assume, then, that they’d rather set a precedent where their team, too, could have its season ruined by the actions of one idiot wearing their jersey. I highly doubt, however, that there would be such vocal calls to “do the right thing” and “make sure justice was done” from these objectors had Campbell been wearing their jersey when he tried to do Sacchetti some serious physical harm on Saturday night…in fact, they would no doubt flop faster than Sacchetti does with the weight of two Stingrays on his back.
The EIHL has that most valuable of opportunities here-a chance to set a precedent.
I realise that that’s an ominous prospect given that all previous evidence shows that they haven’t exactly embraced the opportunity with open arms (one game for a sucker punch, anyone), but if the EIHL decides in favour of Hull being punished (even if only a proportion of the ban is served as many are arguing, say ten games) then they are effectively saying that players have no individual responsibility and that teams must suffer for ALL the player’s sins, even those of little control.
They’re also setting a dangerous precedent indeed-if they apply the “team fault” logic to Campbell’s ban, then it has to get applied equally-and in the past the EIHL have shown themselves a notorious precedent for punishing some teams more than others…would Dave Simms be so cavalier in talking about Hull having to “play without an import” if it were Sheffield being affected, for example?
The EIHL have a chance here to confirm, as with the other bans, that they apply to players only, not teams. Those who say that Cardiff, Fife, Coventry etc had to play short for several games and thus Hull shouldn’t be able to avoid it forget that the vast majority of teams will not release a player to avoid a ban except in the case of an exceptional situation such as this one-the worry that this will open a flood of teams exploiting the system to injure opponents is not only wildly misplaced but verging on scaremongering.
Speaking of precedents-by setting tariffs within the ban and breaking it down into sections, Moray Hanson has begun to finally give EIHL fans what they’ve been crying out for-some transparency in the disciplinary process. The key now is to stick to it…for ANY situation in which a player’s head is driven into the ice and a penalty called, giving ten game ban, for example. In fact, I’d go further and argue that this is an ideal opportunity for the EIHL system to bring in minimum “tariffs” for bans-if Moray Hanson is going to begin breaking down such bans, the next logical step, surely, is to publish an automatic tariff from now on, and stick to it…bans will be a MINIMUM, and can only be added to.
For example-cross-checking is a minimum three, check-to-head is a minimum five, and so on.
Not only would this bring a whole lot of transparency towards the system, but it removes any room for manoeuvre or any likelihood of the silliness we’ve seen in early season. Both players and coaches will be working in a far more transparent system, as will the fans, while the system still takes into account severity of offences by allowing for an increase on the minimum tariff.
The EIHL and Moray Hanson have finally shown that they’re willing to take discipline seriously and show a genuine willingness to be open, albeit forced to be so by an extraordinary event. Now, they have the chance to take the next step and arguably solve the issues with the EIHL disciplinary process once and for all-if they’re willing to take it.