The head coaches of the St. Francis Xavier and Acadia men’s hockey teams were hit hardest Tuesday as Atlantic University Sport handed down its supplementary discipline stemming from an ugly brawl Feb. 2 and the inflammatory remarks that sparked it.
The governing body for university athletics in Atlantic Canada completed its secondary review of the third-period brawl at Acadia Arena and suspended both Axemen head coach Darren Burns and X-Men bench boss Brad Peddle an additional eight games. They each had already served two-game bans.
“These suspensions are significant, coming at a time of year where most sanctions will be served during the playoffs,” said AUS men’s hockey chair David MacLean, who announced his decision in a news release on Tuesday.
“A lot of really fine young people made serious judgement mistakes. I know they will learn from it and move on to bigger and better things.”
The X-Men and Axemen, without their head coaches behind the bench, will face each other in a best-of-three conference quarter-final which begins Wednesday in Antigonish.
Last week, Burns, Peddle and 15 players were given automatic suspensions totalling 39 games by the AUS.
Acadia defenceman Rodney Southam — who, in a statement released last Thursday night, admitted to taunting St. F.X. forward Sam Studnicka with an inflammatory slur moments before the bench-clearing brawl — received an additional five games on Tuesday.
St. F.X. blue-liner Aaron Hoyles, who initially was handed five games for his involvement in the brawl, will sit out an extra two games.
Also receiving additional suspensions on Tuesday — on top of the two games they had already served — were: Acadia’s T.J. Fergus (three more games) and Loch Morrison (five) and St. F.X.’s Mark Tremaine (two).
The suspensions take effect immediately and will carry over into the 2019-20 AUS regular season, if necessary.
Assistant coaches Kris MacDonald of Acadia (two games) and Dave Stewart of St. F.X. (one game) already served their bans.
Both Peddle and Burns did not <FZ,1,0,25>reply to text messages sent Tuesday asking for a comment.
Acadia University issued its own statement later Tuesday afternoon.
“Acadia University has said from day one, and has reiterated over the past week, that we will respect and adhere to the AUS process, and we have continued to do that,” the statement reads. “We are reviewing the sanctions announced by AUS today, and we are also focusing on preparing for the playoffs that commence tomorrow evening.”
AUS executive director Phil Currie hinted last week that the repercussions from the supplementary discipline could be “severe.”
“(MacLean’s) review was thorough and included consultation with affected players, officials, former and current university coaches, athletic directors and sport administrators,” Currie said in a news release Tuesday.
“We now have the ability to strengthen our policies and to grow as an organization. As we look ahead to this post-season, our focus as a conference will be to ensure that student-athlete safety and respect for others are top priority.”
Southam, in his statement last Thursday, said he and Studnicka started exchanging words in the third period of the Feb. 2 game.
“In the heat of the moment, I singled him out, saying ‘You look like a little (expletive) rapist,’” Southam said in his statement.
Studnicka, in a statement issued by St. F.X. on Feb. 4, said the brawl started because an opposing player had made a derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor. There was no explanation in the statement of Studnicka’s connection to the unnamed sexual assault survivor.
Studnicka added that he has dealt with comments directed toward him throughout his three-year career in the AUS.
Southam, in his statement, said he “was completely unaware” of Studnicka’s relationship to a sexual assault survivor.
Acadia University addressed Studnicka’s comments in its statement on Tuesday.
“This has been a very difficult time for everyone concerned, made considerably worse by the inaccurate statement issued on Feb. 4th that resulted in unfair public commentary in mainstream and social media,” the Acadia statement reads.
“An inexcusable word was used, one that was admitted to immediately after the game. Unsolicited, we shared that information with the appropriate individuals. The insinuations made on Feb. 4th around the context and use of the word, made the subsequent number of days incredibly difficult for many individuals and families associated with the headlines that followed. We are pleased that portions of those statements were confirmed as being unfounded, and that it has also been re-affirmed that violence is not a solution to issues occurring on and off the ice.”
The quarter-final series switches to Wolfville for Game 2 on Friday. If a third and deciding game is needed, it will be played Sunday evening at the Charles V. Keating Centre in Antigonish.