The East Coast Hockey League had an opportunity to show fans and players alike that the days of thuggish goonery were gone for good from the game. The league failed.
After Kansas City forward Garrett Klotz attacked the Toledo Walleye’s A.J. Jenks in a recent game at Huntington Center, many expected he would be banned from the league.
Hockey is a physical, sometimes even violent game, but Mr. Klotz went well beyond the bounds of a hit that might draw a major penalty.
After cross-checking Mr. Jenks to the ice, Mr. Klotz proceeded to pound on his victim with hockey stick in hand until other players intervened.
As many noted after the game, if he had done that anywhere but on the ice, Mr. Klotz would be in a jail cell facing assault charges.
To call the incident a cheap shot does not do it justice.
And no justice is what followed when ECHL league officials reviewed the attack and handed down a paltry eight-game suspension for Kansas City’s thug.
At one time, minor league hockey traded on senseless violence and stunts to fill the seats.
These days, the Walleye and other teams play a modern game. Most fans show up to see a game that features speed, strategy, and skill, not brawls.
The era of cheap thrills and cheap shots is well behind hockey. There is no excuse for a league to turn a blind eye to vicious play, particularly if the league claims to take player safety seriously at all.
Toledo has built a first-rate franchise that plays in a first-rate arena before first-rate fans, who expect more.
The game has evolved beyond tolerance for thuggery. The ECHL should be ashamed of the cowardly way it pulled punches when it let an inexcusable goon off lightly.
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