Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume has hit out at the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) after it refused to review a dangerous play from Sunday’s match against Braehaed Clan.
A DOPS statement this week claimed it could not consider any action against Clan enforcer Jay Rosehill for a cross-check to the head of Flyers defenceman James Isaacs, and follow-up check to the head when face down on the ice, as the penalty called by match night referee Neil Wilson did not trigger an automatic review, and Flyers missed a deadline for requesting one.
Dutaiume told the Press: “If we’re going to put a time limit on player safety, and we’re not going to review dangerous plays because of a deadline, then we’re not concerned with player safety.
“Let me make it clear, we were beaten by the better team who were more up for the game and took the points from us. This is not sour grapes.
“But we are talking about very dangerous plays. I’ve seen Matt Nickerson do the exact same thing in a Flyers jersey and get banned for 12 games.
“They can call themselves whatever they want, but I don’t recognise DOPS anymore.
“I don’t think they have player safety at the forefront. I think it’s full of politics, and I’m telling my players to protect themselves at all costs, and I’ll back them 100 per cent.
“If an organisation is not going to take care of my players, they are going to take care of their own long term health. That’s on DOPS shoulders, not mine or theirs.”
In the same match, Clan forward Calum Boyd was handed a match penalty for slew-footing, which carries an automatic one match ban, which was increased to two after a DOPS review.
Rosehill was also subjected to a review from the previous night’s match in Braehaed, with DOPS deciding to upgrade a two-minute charging penalty to a five-minute major.
Dutiaume was concerned by both decisions.
“He (Rosehill) gets away with two of the most dangerous plays in hockey with a five minute major on his record,” he said.
“That, and two games for a slew-foot that sent Kyle Haines flying into the boards, is a complete and utter joke.
“DOPS in my opinion is a toothless tiger.”
Flyers have decided not to carry an enforcer on this year’s roster after being severely sanctioned by DOPS in previous season’s for the actions of Matt Nickerson.
However, Dutiaume believes DOPS has softened its stance to suit the EIHL this season, with some clubs running with two recognised enforcers.
“I’ve been in Britian for 22 years and it goes through cycles and the popular choice at the time,” he said.
“Years ago we got rid of all enforcers and decided to clean it up – but that wasn’t entertaining so they’ve brought it back.
“DOPS can’t change its stance for the league’s position on it - it has to be independent but it’s clearly not.
“We had an enforcer in Matt Nickerson and we got raked over the coals. The man was singled out, targeted and suspended for big swathes of the season.
“That cost us league position, being short for so long, so we go down a different route and now we see enforcers not getting punished, for what we got punished for.
“You can feel injustice and wrong-doing, but just when you think you’ve seen it all in British ice hockey, they throw it all up in the air and surprise you again.”
The incidents have also brought the match night referees under the spotlight but Dutiaume insists they have a tough job.
“The referees in this league are out there for both teams and most nights both teams will feel a sense of injustice,” he said.
“You’re never going to please hockey teams and refs have one of the hardest jobs in hockey.
“Could hockey teams and the league improve? Yes. Could the refs improve with better traning? Probably, but it all comes down to money and nobody is willing to invest in it, so we have what we have.”
The Flyers coach also called on the league to prevent EIHL coaches from speaking to referees between periods.
“I think some refs get intimated by coaches talking to them between periods, and they are scared to step up and make those calls because they know they will be subject to abuse - which is wrong,” he said.
“You shouldn’t talk to a ref during the game, unless they come over and speak to both benches.
“You see coaches in all buildings go into the refs office all the time, which is unacceptable in my opinion. I’m not going to go talk to a ref.
“It skews the game, and you see refs trying to even it up.
“I don’t know what goes through a refs mind, I don’t talk to them, but there will definitely be an intimidation factor on some people.”
Dutiaume also hit out at the governance of the Elite League, adding: “We don’t have a league body - we have a conglomerate of owners.
“There’s no independent body so there’s no transparency and whoever yells the loudest is going to get their way.
“That’s what happens when you don’t have a structure in place.”
After suffering back-to-back defeats to Braehead last weekend, Flyers will hope to bounce back in a tough double header against Sheffield Steelers with the first game on the road on Saturday.
“By no means are we pushing the emergency panic button but we need to right the ship and get all guys buying in and having that desperation that other teams will,” Dutiaume said.
“You know Sheffield are going to be looking to put on a performance against us. That’s something we have to be prepared for over both nights.
“Win, lose or draw we are expecting that pulse and heartbeat that shows we’re going to work. If the people paying the wages see that you’re laying it on line and that your commited, they can handle getting beat by the better team on the night.
“What they can’t handle is guys cheating and not committed to a game plan- and we’re working on that.”
Flyers hope to have David Turon back in the line-up with James Isaacs on stand-by to cover for the injured Ric Jackman.