Brawl on the ice between HIFK and Jokerit leads to heavy sanctions and tarnishes reputation of ice hockey just before the start of the SM-liiga season
Unprovoked attack that caused Ville Peltonen to suffer concussion was directed by coaches, disciplinary committee concludes
With the start of the 2012-2013 SM-Liiga season just days away, all the talk in Finnish ice hockey circles has not been about the sport itself, or about who is likely to wind up champion or who will be relegated, but about violence on the ice, often in orchestrated form.
The industrial-scale fighting that broke out in the European Trophy pre-season ice hockey tournament game between the local rivals Jokerit and HIFK in the Finnish capital the week before last has now resulted in record punishments being handed down by the SM-Liiga, even though the match was not officially played under its jurisdiction.
The players and coaches involved in the mayhem were banned from a total of 71 games.
In addition, the Jokerit team was slapped with a EUR 40,000 fine. Helsinki IFK was fined to the tune of EUR 25,000.
The most severe punishment, an 18-game suspension, was given to the Jokerit forward Semir Ben-Amor, who attacked HIFK forward Ville Peltonen in the opening period of the game without any apparent reason and caused him to suffer concussion.
“What happened has severely damaged the reputation of the SM-Liiga ice hockey. From the image point of view, the discussion that has been sparked came at the worst possible time, a couple of days before the start of the new season”, says league managing director Jukka-Pekka Vuorinen.
“The punishments had to be severe enough, for the teams to get the message: it is time to clean the table. The sport cannot survive affairs like this.”
On Tuesday the SM-Liiga, Finland's premier ice hockey league, issued the highest number of game bans in history in one go.
By then the league had still not been able to establish in full what was the coaching staffs’ role in what transpired.
In the wake of the decidedly nasty brawl in the game - which ended 5-1 to Jokerit, although the result was largely secondary when the referees sent ten individuals to the showers and dished out 277 minutes in penalties - there has been a lot of discussion on whether the teams’ coaches had instructed their players to use violence in the rink.
“According to the disciplinary committee, it is clear that the Jokerit coaches have directed the players. This was concluded by listening to both parties, and also based on the public video material of the events”, Vuorinen said.
More precisely than that the coaches’ actions have not been determined.
The Jokerit coaches Tomi Lämsä and Tomek Valtonen and the IFK coach Pasi Sormunen were all given an 8-game ban.
What has added fuel to the flames is the fact that earlier on Tuesday the late-edition tabloid Ilta-Sanomat published on its online edition a video from which one can clearly hear instructions that seem to come from the Jokerit team bench.
“Kill the fu**er”, someone shouts just before Ben-Amor sets off onto the ice and then attacks Peltonen.
Whose voice that is, is not clear. The coach in charge of the Jokerit forwards is assistant coach Valtonen.
According to Jokerit managing director Jarmo Kekäläinen, however, the team is not going to reconsider its coaches’ contracts on account of what happened.
“The organisation, coaches, and players have received truly severe punishments. Furthermore, the SM-Liiga, the police, and the public prosecutor are looking into the matter. I reckon that is enough”, Kekäläinen says.
Valtonen also acts as an assistant coach with the under-21s national ice hockey team.
Finnish Ice Hockey Association Chairman Kalervo Kummola has told Helsingin Sanomat that Valtonen’s role with the team will be “re-discussed”.
Helsingin Sanomat was unable to reach Valtonen for comment on Tuesday.
Of the IFK players, defenseman Juuso Salmi received a 12-game ban in the league. Ilari Melart and Siim Liivik got 6-game bans each. Two other Jokerit players received shorter suspensions.
“I think the punishments are quite severe, but we have to take them as they come”, says HIFK sports director Tom Nybondas.
Kummola considers the issued punishments appropriate.
“Stern punishments. At long last, this kind of buffoonery will be reined in and a stop will be put to the idiocy”, Kummola comments.
The police are also looking into the remarkably violent events on the ice.
The YouTube link below gives a good indication of what took place.
From it, anyone can draw their own conclusions of how well the notions of sportsmanship-like behaviour are exemplified, for example, by Semir Ben-Amor.
There have been other knock-on effects besides the league's own sanctions. .
Since the game, Helsingin Sanomat, for one, has withdrawn from its sponsorship deal with Jokerit.
YouTube video of the incident. The superimposed Finnish comments read as follows:
1. HIFK’s Ville Peltonen enters the ice. Immediately somebody shouts: “OK, Ville is coming…”
2. Jokerit player Aleksi “Muse” Mustonen enters the ice. A shout is heard: “Muse stay, Muse stay!” Mustonen returns to the team bench.
3. Semir Ben-Amor gets up and leaps onto the ice in place of Mustonen. A shout is heard: “Kill the fu**er!”
4. Ban-Amor tackles Peltonen from behind and starts to punch him.
5. And finally the entire sequence in one go.
YouTube video of the violence (see above for translations of texts)
European Trophy live text commentary on the game in question. The first period is when the action happens.