A call for change to MIAC discipline policy

By Doug Johnson
Let’s Play Hockey

An on-ice incident occurred on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Fogerty Arena in Blaine during a MIAC Men’s Hockey Showcase game between Bethel and St. Mary’s. At the 11:20 mark of the second period, St. Mary’s forward Mike Hill was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a five-minute major for a check from behind plus a game disqualification for a hit which looked to be precipitated by a questionable check just seconds earlier.

The Bethel player, Garrett Windle, lay motionless on the ice with no feeling in his legs. He was rushed to the hospital and was released the next day. He did suffer head and neck injuries and it is undetermined when he may return to action. The St. Mary’s player also had to sit out their next game for receiving a game disqualification penalty.

If there was a disciplinary committee in place in the MIAC, in all likelihood Hill may have received one additional game suspension. Many factors go into this decision, such as the year of the player, past history as a repeat offender, etc.

The incident has brought to light a possible glitch in the MIAC system for further penalties to offending players. MIAC Executive Director Dan McKane currently has no authority in his job description to hand out further suspensions. The current policy in the MIAC is that if there is to be any further discipline, the school whose player acted irresponsibly will make the call as to whether any further suspension should occur. 

This seems like a system that may not produce the best results.

The United States Hockey League and the North American Hockey League, where the vast majority of these players play prior to going to school, have an extensive process for further disciplining players. Either a combination of a commissioner, coordinator of officials and/or a committee of league personnel can suspend players.

The Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association also has a disciplinary committee and policy in place, as does the National Collegiate Hockey Association. This is done in part because there has been a culture in hockey that you need to settle the score.

This is why MIAC administrators should look to take immediate action.

“Two years ago the MIAC administrators reviewed an option to place the decisions in the commissioners hands, but instead choose to handle this at an institutional level,” McKane said. “The conference will review that decision and see if there is a different direction that may be more appropriate.” 

University of St. Thomas athletic director Steve Fritz said, “It is worth a discussion at the league level to see if these issues need to be addressed at the league level.”

Currently, the athletic directors meet three times per year to discuss issues in the MIAC for all sports. Their next scheduled meeting is Nov. 13. Jeff Swenson, the AD at Augsburg College, is the chair of this group.

It is probably time that the athletic directors figure a way to form an incident review committee for the betterment of the sport and for the safety of their athletes. The vast majority of these players will not play at the next level. The league needs to show them direction and give them guidance on and off the ice.

These players are also role models for young athletes throughout the league. They need to remember that their actions may result in lifetime ramifications.