ALEXANDRIA BAY The boycott that left several Thousand Islands Privateers without a job Friday was not staged because players feared the so-called cheap play of Akwesasne, but because the league did not issue tougher sanctions on the Warriors, those who boycotted said.
The Privateers who refused to play Akwesasne on Friday were upset because the Federal Hockey League did not levy tougher suspensions and hold the Warriors to league standards.
Thousand Islands had played Akwesasne nine times before Fridays game in which all but five Privateers refused to play. In those games, Akwesasne received 17 fighting majors and five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Warriors have amassed a sizable 1,200 penalty minutes in 34 games, or more than 35 penalty minutes per game.
All those fights and penalties have resulted in eight suspensions, the longest of which was five games each to Patrick Deraspe and Adam Thompson on separate occasions.
I think there were one too many incidents, former Privateers coach Marc LeFebvre said. The league failed to take appropriate action.
But commissioner Don Kirnan said that the league had been taking action and issuing harsher suspensions in the weeks before Akwesasnes meeting with Thousand Islands on Friday.
Basically we have people reviewing the game and basically any player or coach that acts inappropriately will be suspended and the organization will be fined, Kirnan said. We clamped down on Akwesasne and Danbury. They received a lot of suspensions in the last 10 days.
Still, the FHLs action didnt satisfy LeFebvre or the players who decided to boycott. On Thursday, Thousand Islands held a team vote to decide if it would travel to Akwesasne. Former player and Brownville native Brian Marks said the decision was unanimous until it came time to load the bus.
The day we were supposed to leave for the trip, we had guys saying they were going to go, he said. (Akwesasne) was supposed to be kicked out of the league.
They say the league is a developmental league and each team brings in a couple older guys to help the younger guys out, Marks added. When you have Akwesasne, which has guys on their team that are almost 40 years old, theyre giving us cheap shots. It gets a little ridiculous. It wasnt that we were scared, we were just sick of it.
Thousand Islands isnt the only team to have problems with Akwesasne. Cape Cod skated off the ice after a bench-clearing brawl and forfeited the game on Jan. 14. The Blue Fins were even leading, 7-1, at the time of the third-period incident, which was sparked by Paul Shantzs tripping disqualification and Ahmed Mahfouzs spearing disqualification.
There are league conference calls every week, LeFebvre said. (Akwesasnes play) has been brought up every conference call since Christmas. The league keeps giving them chance after chance after chance.
Kirnan disputed LeFebvres claims and said the Warriors were not on probation as a team, only individual players and coaches were suspended, and the team was never in jeopardy of expulsion.
The games are filmed and are reviewed by league officials after every game, Kirnan said. If there are any incidents, they are written up by the officials. If somebody would have done something, they would have been given a very hard penalty.
Many of the players who boycotted, and were subsequently released by Privateers owner Nicole Kirnan, have found other work in hockey. Marks is headed to Brooklyn, while his former teammates have been signed by various other teams in the FHL and other leagues. The Privateers, meanwhile, continue to add players to the roster.
Were happy that everything is back to where it was, Don Kirnan said. There were some trades made and we found places for players that didnt go to that game. As long as these hockey players play, I doubt very much theyll do anything like this again. I think theyll learn what they did is really foolish.