Fife Flyers coach speaks out on assistant’s shock lengthy ban

Fife Flyers coaches,  Jeff Hutchins (left) and Todd Dutiaume  (Pic: Scott Wiggins)
Fife Flyers coaches, Jeff Hutchins (left) and Todd Dutiaume (Pic: Scott Wiggins)

Fife Flyers cannot appeal a shock seven-game ban slapped on assistant coach Jeff Hutchins.

The decision, by the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) followed an incident at the end of the team’s recent game in Nottingham.

It centres around an empty plastic water bottle kicked in frustration which then flew into the crowd and hit a fan.

DOPS’ statement gave no narrative or issued no video footage of the moment – both of which feature as standard in its deliberations – which led it to imposing the heaviest ban of the season so far.

It is more than double any other punishment.

You may also be interested in:

Shock seven game ban on Fife Flyers assistant coach

2017: Player’s two-game ban for punching a Fife Flyers fan

Column: Edinburgh’s Prince St Christmas market is stale and over-priced

It is also more than three times higher than the two game ban slapped on Sheffield Steelers’ player Michael Davies who picked up the plastic goal pegs, carried them round the ice pad at Nottingham and then threw one of them into the crowd in September. That incident also happened in Nottingham.

Hutchins’ suspension is even double that of the three game ban imposed on Manchester Storm import Eric Neilson after he threw punches at a Flyers’ supporter sitting behind the team bench in 2017.

It means the assistant coach will not be allowed on the bench for any home or away game until December.

His suspension started last night when Belfast Giants came to Kirkcaldy, and concludes after the trip to Northern Ireland on November 30.

Dutiaume chose his words carefully when he addressed the situation after Wednesday’s match – but it was clear the club was taken aback at the scale of the punishment which included a fine for Hutchins who also apologised for his actions.

He was keen to stress the team had an excellent relationship with the fans and officials in Nottingham – “I do not want that relationship damaged.”

“I realise that everybody has to take responsibility for their actions. The key word here is everybody,” he said.

“How can goal pegs be thrown into the stands and that is another level across the boards?”

“We have lost a valuable asset to our team. Jeff brings at lot to this club. This incident does not reflect his character as a person or who he is, and I have a lot of respect for him.

“I know he feels terrible about it and is also not able to talk about it.”

DOPS statement was posted online just before Wednesday’s game faced-off ands was a key talking point in the stands.

Instead of its usual detailed narrative with video ananlysis, it provided only a short statement which read: “Following input from the Department of Player Safety, the EIHL have suspended and fined Fife Flyers assistant coach Jeff Hutchins for seven games in relation to an off ice incident at the end of the game between Nottingham Panthers and Fife Flyers on October 26.”

It added that Hutchins has apologised for his actions, and stipulated that no further comment would be made.

By contrast, when it ruled on the Steelers’ player who throw a goal peg into the crowd, DOPS described in detail what happened, and gave a full reason for its suspension, It also put the incident into context pointing out the goal peg “was not thrown with force or with an intent to injure. Instead, it showed a lack of control with his personal emotions in frustration at the conclusion of the game.”