Flyers unsatisfied as Fox ban is reduced on appeal

Justin Fox, Fife Flyers. Pic: Steve Gunn
Justin Fox, Fife Flyers. Pic: Steve Gunn
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Fife Flyers coach Todd Dutiaume says he is less than satisfied despite seeing Justin Fox’s five-match suspension reduced to two following an appeal hearing in Sheffield.

Fox was handed the ban by the EIHL Department of Player Safety following a request for supplementary discipline from Dundee Stars after their player, Craig Cescon, suffered a facial injury after being hit by a high stick in the match on February 19.

The incident was initially assessed as a 2+2 double minor penalty for accidental high sticks by match referee Toby Craig, however upon review, DOPS upgraded this to a match penalty, which carries an automatic one-game ban, plus an additional four games.

Fife appealed against the additional four games, inisting there was no intent to injure, and Dutiaume travelled to Sheffield yesterday (Wednesday) to present his case before an independent panel.

The Flyers coach hoped and expected to have all additional games rescinded, however, following the review, DOPS has upheld the match penalty, and reduced the supplementary discipline from four games to one.

Fox served his automatic one-game ban, which could not be appealed, in Saturday’s defeat away to Belfast Giants, and he will also be unavailable for this weekend’s home clash against Edinburgh Capitals.

Dutiaume told the Press: “I’m not overly pleased with the decision but all parties have to accept it and move forward from here.

“In our view it was an accidental high stick. They’ll have their reasons why they decided to put five games in place, but our feeling, on behalf of the player – and I know Justin and have worked with him for two years – is that this was an unintentional incident that took place during the course of play.”

Stars’ coach Marc Lefebvre took a different view, describing Fox’s stickwork as ‘‘dangerous’’ and ‘‘very reckless’’ and said he was guilty of ‘‘a total lack of respect’’ to his opponent. He also added: “Having a stick in your hand is like having a loaded gun. You have to be in control of it at all times.”

However, Dutiaume questioned the Dundee stance and suggested that Lefebrve should have chosen his words more carefully.

“As coaches, and I’ve certainly learned this over the last five years, you have to be very careful when commenting on a situaton,” he said.

“Sometimes after a game emotions can come into play, certainly when it concerns the well-being of your players. All coaches will defend their players.

“I have been one of the most outspoken people on player safety, and Dundee has to be very careful.

‘‘If we’re going to talk about a stick being a loaded gun, then we’ve had high sticking incidents against them in the past, you can look them up.

“If you look back a little further, I lost a finger to one of their imports in a slash. He didn’t take my finger off on purpose, but my finger was taken away from me.

“If you go back further still, my brother, who is an Elite League alumni, was kicked in the face by one of the Dundee players and subsequently suffered a broken cheekbone.

“These were accidental plays and no discipline was requested on them.

“Fife Flyers aren’t out to get the Dundee Stars.

“You could make any play look worse than it is in slow motion, but in real-time, there was no intention from Justin to injure.”

While sympathising with the injury to the Dundee player involved, Dutiaume stressed that high sticking incidents are part of the game.

“We’ve had over 145 high sticking calls all season – that’s a significant number,” he said. “This isn’t an isolated incident- and it’s part of the game unfortunately.

“There have been 23 double minors for high sticking and one five minute major for high-sticking, and none of them have gone to supplementary discipline, bar Foxy.”

Flyers will be without Fox and the injured Bryan Cameron when they host Edinburgh Capitals on Saturday.