Comment: Where Fife Flyers & DOPS go from here

Todd Dutiaume, head coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Al Goold)
Todd Dutiaume, head coach, Fife Flyers (Pic: Al Goold)

‘’Player safety shouldn’t have deadlines’’ - a summary of Todd Dutiaume’s stance against DOPS, nailed in five words.

There was a lot of support for Fife Flyers’ coach as he made the case that a flashpoint, such as the one involving Jay Rosehill of Braehead Clan, ought to be assessed immediately regardless of existing rules and structures.

Whether Fife made a hash of their appeal only the club knows.

But let’s park the spat over who emailed what, to who and when, and whether DOPS ought to have been a bit more reactive rather than just checking it’d gone 6.00 p.m. and moving on to the next case.

Let’s return to player safety. Dutiaume’s core concern.

The root of cause of his anger was the two minute minor charging call given to Jay Rosehill when he took off and launched into Justin Fox in Saturday’s game.

Dutiaume felt it was dangerous, and wanted it reviewed there and then – but DOPS doesn’t do a weekend shift, The system agreed and put in place by clubs doesn’t allow for that.

There is no red button to activate in the event of a major incident in a Saturday game when all teams usually play again the next night.

Only a match penalty can automatically bar a player from skating 24 hours later. That sanction is the sole domain of the match referee.

What Fife have done is throw a spotlight on a flaw in DOPS’ system where a player’s conduct in the opening game is of sufficient concern to call for an immediate review.

For that to happen, someone needs to push for change.

Fife kicked-off this debate, so, the club now needs to take a lead role. Doing nothing means nothing will change.

The Rosehill incident has thrown up some key questions, and the sport should take time to reflect whether Fife has a case regarding the bigger picture of player safety.

To prompt that, the next EIHL meeting should see Flyers’ directors arrive ready to brief every other club on why change is needed - and have a document already in hand with some initial proposals the rest can then discuss openly and in detail.

Should DOPS have a weekend ‘red alert’ system for incidents that coaches, clubs or referees feel threatened player safety?

If so, is DOPS resourced sufficiently to do that, how would it work, and what measures would have to be put in place to block any individual or club trying to abuse it to get a rival key player or tough enforcer removed from the next big game?

Would that system have an right of appeal?

Should clubs be removed from the appeals process altogether?

Any of these would result in fundamental changes to DOPS, and even if the clubs shared Fife’s concerns – and, privately, some certainly do – then changes would only follow in time. A mid-season switch is a non-starter.

If, after an open discussion, the majority are comfortable with how DOPS works then the status quo will prevail.

But after a week of negative PR fuelled by social media debate, maybe the league should take a step back and assess the mood of its board members about DOPS. It’s never a bad thing a re-appraise and see if improvements can be made to the benefit of all.

Dutiaume is right to try to draw a line under the weekend incident - this isn’t about one player or a specific club, there’s a much bigger picture at play - but if the supplementary disciplinary system needs to consider the possibilities of an instant appeals process, then perhaps it should be on the next EIHL agenda.

And maybe they should start by inviting Dutes to address them ...