Fife Flyers’ seventh suspension from a game against Dundee Stars

Danick Gauthier followed in an increasingly long line of Fife Flyers players to fall foul of the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) after a game against Dundee Stars.

The powerful forward was hit with a two-game suspension for a check in Saturday’s 5-1 win which drew no call from the officials at the time – in fact it was a key play which lead directly to one of their goals.

That made him the sixth Fife player to be suspended since January 2018 when Stars were the opposing team.

And if you go back to 2017, it was the seventh DOPS ruling involving a Fife player against Stars; a pattern which isn’t repeated in any of their dealings with the disciplinary organisation.

In that time, Flyers have been involved in 12 reviews – two against Belfast Giants, and one each with Glasgow Clan, Nottingham Panthers and the infamous post-game handshake brawl with Manchester Storm.

All clubs have the right to request reviews of any incidents, and DOPS can impose supplementary disciplinary action. The body also automatically reviews major penalties.

March 2017 saw Justin Fox hit with a five-game ban after a high sticks call was upgraded to a match penalty, which carries an automatic one game ban. DOPS increased that to five games.

Flyers appealed and the ban was cut to two.

In 2018 Flyers were under investigation in five DOPS cases – all of them involving Stars.

March of that year saw Dundee forward Chris Lawrence banned for two games for cross-checking, while Fife defenceman James Isaacs was suspended for two after a request to review was submitted by the Taysiders.

That same month saw Liam Heelis suspended for one game for slew footing.

In September, Brett Bulmer was banned for two games for a check to the head/neck, and in November, Paul Crowder sat out a one-game ban.

The year concluded with Carlo Finucci being handed a two-game ban for a retaliatory slash.

The club’s only other DOPS investigation in that time also involved Finucci who was banned for one match for abuse of the officials in Belfast.

In 2019 Fife were involved in two DOPS cases in the latter half of last season – Brett Bulmer’s three-game ban for kneeing against Glasgow Clan and the post-game brawl with Manchester Storm.

Gauthier’s weekend suspension was the club’s third DOPS case of 2019-20.

He was banned for one game for slew footing against Belfast, while assistant coach Jeff Hutchins was hit by a seven-match suspension – still the highest tariff issued by DOPS this season - for kicking a water bottle off the bench and into the crowd in Nottingham.

Gauthier’s suspension came after DOPS ruled his check on Shawn Boutin fell into the category of reckless - defined as “a deliberate and/or dangerous action with no concern for the result, with a conscious action to provoke, through intent and a willful purpose.”

Boutin was checked by Gauthier as he played the puck.

DOPS noted Gauthier could have made a legal body check with the use of his shoulder, adding: “He did not and chose to do a rotating motion, turning almost 180 degrees to make the check” which is said “was delivered with force in a reckless and endangering manner.”

It also noted his skates left the ice pad as he made the hit – a movement which will put a player on DOPS radar.

The disciplinary body added: “Gauthier must skate to have regard for the puck, avoid elevation and make a check through the use of his shoulder, not his back. It is not felt Gauthier was targeting Boutin’s head, but the result of these types of reckless and endangering checks is head contact, in this case causing an apparent injury.”

DOPS banned Gauthier for two games and also hit him with a fine.