Acadia head coach Darren Burns won’t have to serve the remainder of his suspension for his part in an ugly hockey brawl between his Axemen and the St. Francis Xavier X-Men last February.
The Atlantic University Sport judicial committee reduced Burns’ suspension from 10 games to five, the AUS announced on Monday. He sat out five regular-season and playoff games last season and the remaining five would have been carried over to the 2019-20 season.
Burns and Acadia University immediately appealed the suspension and the matter was reviewed by the AUS judicial committee.
“As a result of the decision of the AUS judicial committee, coach Burns’ suspension is now considered to have been served,” said a statement from the AUS released on Monday. “He will return to his regular coaching duties for the 2019-20 pre-season and regular season.”
The Feb. 2 brawl at Acadia Arena broke out in front of the Axemen bench. It garnered national headlines with videos posted to social media showing players on both teams hurling profanities and leaving their benches to join in the melee midway through the third period. More than 300 minutes of penalties were assessed.
Thirteen players — five from the Axemen and eight from the X-Men — as well as Burns and St. F.X. head coach Brad Peddle were ejected from the game. They received automatic suspensions totalling 39 games by the AUS. Supplementary discipline was later handed down and both Burns and Peddle were given an additional eight games on top of the initial two-game bans they each received.
Acadia athletics issued a statement immediately after the AUS released its decision.
“There is no question that the incident that occurred that night was unacceptable and we regret our role in it,” Acadia athletic director Kevin Dickie said in the release. “We’ve had many candid conversations internally to ensure we learn and emerge from it as a better hockey team and athletic department. We knew from the outset, however, that Darren’s role leading up to, and during the incident was completely consistent with what the appeal panel concluded.
“We are pleased with the reduction in the suspension. I am happiest for Darren as a person whose character I respect tremendously. This has been a very long and difficult few months for Darren and those closest to him. I’m glad he can turn the page with a positive outcome.”