Comment: First steps to sorting out DOPS

The Colton Fretter incident that led to an unprecedented inquiry into DOPS (Pic: Dean Woolley)
The Colton Fretter incident that led to an unprecedented inquiry into DOPS (Pic: Dean Woolley)

As clean-up operations go, this was swift and decisive.

True, it meant the EIHL was being reactive rather than pro-active - not the best place for any pro sports league to be - but it finally demonstrated some leadership and a will to sort out a mess.

DOPS’ handling of the incident which saw Sheffield Steelers Colton Fretter level Belfast Giants’ Spiro Goulakos with a shocking, head high retaliatory hit mid-ice was addressed by a third party, and the correct disciplinary action taken.

Fretter’s pitiful one-game suspension became six, and Goulakos’ three games went down to two after the kicking penalty was, at last, put into context.

His hit, which sparked the response, was also changed from 5+game for checking from behind to a fair hit.

The review, carried out by a former NHL linesman, brought clarity to a messy situation that should never have arisen in the first place.

So, while the league gets credit for stepping in, questions remain.

How on earth did DOPS reach its original conclusions? What was its thought process?

Why has the league failed to listen to the concerns over DOPS which have been catalogued and discussed among fans and players, online and in the stands?

And, crucially, where does it go from here?

The EIHL has bought itself some time by asking assessor, Lyle Seitz, the former NHL stripey, and the global organisation, the Player Safety Committee, to help with any disciplinary reviews until it convenes an emergency meeting on November 8.

On that agenda will be DOPS’ future and refereeing.

It could be a lively gathering.

It will be interesting to see if the league takes on board the assessment style of the PCS.

DOPS had done something similar but, of late, its video explanations tended to simply read out the penalty as per the result book rather than offer any perspective or commentary.

And it will be interesting to see how the league’s own officials react to one of their own, Simon Kirkham, effectively being thrown under a bus as he was removed very publicly from his role within DOPS - the first time an official has been named too in connection with the organisation.

Player safety remains the number one concern, and will be long after the Fretter incident has been placed in the sport’s Hall of Infamy.

There have been calls for some time to overhaul DOPS, and, up until now, the league has shown little inclination to act.

It has done so today on the back of an unprecedented public criticism.

It now has a fortnight to address the problems within the organisation, and get a structure in place that ensures player safety is addressed.

In a high-speed, high impact game, that is the number one issue.

There is still a lot of work to be done.