Hockey East commissioner made wrong decision

Posted Feb. 08, 2011, at 8:43 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 09, 2011, at 12:07 p.m.

Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna made a decision last week that was wrong when he suspended UMaine’s Joey Diamond for a game for slew-footing Boston University goalie Kieran Millan after the whistle.

Slew-footing occurs when a player comes up behind another player, swings his leg and contacts the back of the opponents’ leg to trip him.

Bertagna considered it a “potentially dangerous play, a dirty play” and used his authority to administer supplemental discipline. Because the whistle had blown, Millan was in a resting mode and wasn’t expecting the contact. 

Bertagna showed the video to the executive committee, comprised of three Hockey East athletic directors, and they agreed with him.

Bertagna had also been sent a video showing five hits to the head in the Maine-BU series that resulted in a five-minute major to Maine defenseman Mark Nemec and a two-minute minor to BU’s Alex Chiasson.

The other three contact-to-the-head incidents went unpunished.

To his credit, Bertagna said referees Tim Benedetto and Jack Millea “undercalled” the various infractions and spoke to them about it. He should also be commended for trying to clean up the game. 

Diamond was assessed a two-minute minor for hitting after the whistle.

“I don’t think the referees saw (Diamond’s infraction),” said Bertagna. “But a lot of (unnamed) people called it to my attention.”

Bertagna maintained that Diamond’s slew-foot is a more “suspendable” offense than the contact-to-the-head incidents.

“The contacts-to-the-head didn’t rise to the level of suspensions,” he said.

Former NHL stars Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros would probably disagree with Bertagna. So would Paul Kariya and Marc Savard.

Concussions significantly damaged or ended their careers.

Did the executive committee think the contact-to-the-head incidents warranted suspensions?

The committee never saw that videotape.

“We just saw the one in question (the Diamond video),” said UMass AD and committee member John McCutcheon.

That’s because Bertagna had already ruled they weren’t suspendable offenses.

Bertagna should have showed it to them so they could have weighed the Diamond infraction against the other infractions. 

There is validation to Bertagna’s assessment. Slew-footing can be dangerous, especially if it is done at full speed.

A victim can land on his tailbone, spine or head.

But Diamond skated slowly across the crease before slew-footing Millan. The goalie fell on his back and didn’t hit his head.

To say it is more dangerous than the contact-to-the-head infractions is wrong.

Was Diamond targeted because he is a feisty and sometimes chippy player?

Bertagna said it wasn’t the prevailing reason but admitted “the fact he has had a lot of penalties that have come after the whistle didn’t help him. He’s a dynamic player who plays on the edge. I like Joey but he has to make better decisions.”

Diamond has 72 penalty minutes, including three hitting-after-the-whistle minors, two apiece for slashing and charging and two majors for contact to the head and boarding.

But, in 2008-2009, Boston College’s Nick Petrecki  had 161 penalty minutes including seven boarding penalties, four penalties for hitting from behind including two majors; another major for head-butting; six cross-checking calls; six roughing calls; four contact-to-the-heads and two hitting after the whistles.

He was never suspended by Bertagna.

Diamond should have received a warning, not a suspension.

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