Dutiaume on DOPS: Players must feel protected

Colton Fretter clashes with Spiro Goulakos (Pic: Dean Woolley)
Colton Fretter clashes with Spiro Goulakos (Pic: Dean Woolley)

Ice hockey found itself embroiled in controversy last week following a disciplinary review which made the headlines – for all the wrong reasons.

Ice hockey found itself embroiled in controversy last week following a disciplinary review which made the headlines – for all the wrong reasons.

The Elite League’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) viewed footage of Sheffield Steelers’ Colton Fretter launching a revenge attack on Belfast Giants’ Spiro Goulakos, and determined his actions were worth only a one-game ban.

That decision went global within the sport, and, 24 hours later, the league took the matter out of DOPS’ hands and asked a third party body to take a fresh look.

Lyle Seitz, former NHL linesman, and members of the Player Safety Committee (PSC), a global body established for overseeing player safety and discipline, needed little time to deliver the suspension many fans expected.

Fretter was hit with a six-game ban.

Along with his fellow EIHL coaches, Todd Dutiaume watched the events unfold from afar.

Fife Flyers’ coach has had his run-ins with DOPS – last year’s flashpoint with Braehead Clan’s Jay Rosehill sparking a bitter war of words as Flyers sought, unsuccessfully, to appeal the outcome.

The chaos that engulfed DOPS last week came as no surprise.

Dutiaume said: ‘’I think the situation has been brewing under the surface for some time.

‘’Any criticism from me in the past was not selfish – it was ultimately about player safety.

‘’In the game we play, everyone knows how crucial it is to have a full line-up , and players have a right to feel they are protected not only by officials but the departments in place to protect them.’’

Dutiaume said it was unfortunate it took another flashpoint – and a ferocious criticism from fans, players and the media – to spark change, but he welcomed the action taken.

‘’It looks like they are taking positives strides and if that’s the case, then we’re all going to benefit from it, rather than teams trying to score points getting suspensions,’’ he said.

‘’Looking at big picture, as far as recruiting quality players not only to Flyers but to the league, players have to feel they are protected and their interests are looked out for, and they are not just pawns in a game.

‘’It looks like they are making good positive strides.

‘‘At least they are being pro-active now and changing before somebody gets seriously hurt.’’

Dutiaume said a move to four officials wouldn’t automatically put an end to flashpoints – but hefty bans would.

‘’Incidents still happen whether there are two refs or five refs out there,’’.

‘’These instances are still rising to surface because nobody has been punished heavily.

‘’We got handed a 12-game ban a few years ago, and we knew we couldn’t do that again because, ultimately, it affects us.

‘’I don’t think that we really have the teeth yet to say that what a player did was wrong, and that they have hurt their own organisation, and maybe cost them the chance of a trophy or title.

‘’As soon as you start sending a message with a little more heavy handed bans, players will get the message.

‘’ You know what you can get away with and what you can’t.

There’s some guys out there who can be dangerous players.

‘‘But if they know it’s going to affect their employment and, ultimately their team’s success, they really have a way of holding people in check.’’