League & club probe altercation between player and fan

The incident involving Manchester Storm player Eric Neilson and a Fife Flyers fan. Pic: Steve Gunn
The incident involving Manchester Storm player Eric Neilson and a Fife Flyers fan. Pic: Steve Gunn

Ice hockey’s bosses have confirmed they are investigating the altercation between a player and fan at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday night.

Ice hockey’s bosses have confirmed they are investigating the altercation between a player and a fan at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday night.

The Elite League match, watched by a near 2000 attendance, was temporarily stopped in the 31st minute when Storm player, Eric Neilson, became involved in a confrontation with a supporter sat immediately behind the away bench.

Neilson, who was witnessed reaching into the crowd and throwing punches at a spectator, was ejected from the game on a match penalty by referee Pavel Halas, while the fan involved was removed the arena by security staff.

The player's actions resulted in an automatic one-game suspension, which could be extended by the EIHL - the league’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) is expected to consider supplementary disciplinary action against Neilson this week – but the incident also highlighted concerns over the seating arrangements at Fife Ice Arena, with home fans situated within touching distance of the away bench.

An EIHL spokesman said: ‘‘The incident involving Manchester Storm’s Eric Neilson and a Fife Flyers’ fan in the stand during Saturday’s game at Fife Ice Arena is currently under investigation by the EIHL.

‘‘The EIHL does not wish to comment on it until this investigation has been concluded.’’

Fife Flyers are also staging their own review into the flashpoint which sparked huge debate online – and made national headlines.

Storm coach Omar Pacha claimed it was a reaction to the fan’s behaviour.

Speaking to the club’s own podcast channel, The Forecast,he said Neilson retaliated to having "beer thrown in his face" and that he and his players were "abused all night.’’

The coach added: "We came very close to pulling our players - it was getting atrocious."

Braehead Clan coach Ryan Finnerty, who has previously criticised the security arrangements at the Kirkcaldy rink, took to Twitter to state: "I hope the EIHL backs Neilson as the seating situation in Fife is beyond a joke. You have to protect your players and coaches."

However, Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume said the onus was on both players and fans to behave appropriately, adding: "Our building is unique - you have players, coaches and crowd able to interact closely. That's a feature we want to hold onto."

In a statement from the club's board of directors, Flyers confirmed that they are conducting a review into the circumstances that led to the Saturday's altercation, and insisted that player and fan safety is their main concern.

It said: "We are looking in to this incident to gather all the facts before making any further statements.

"We would just like to remind all fans and players that player and fan safety is a high priority for us.

"We will gather more information and evidence regarding the incident and will make any corrective action decisions based on the evidence and information we gather.”