On Saturday, Michigan State sophomore forward Corey Tropp and freshman forward Andrew Conboy unleashed a thuggish attack on University of Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer at the end of a rivalry game in Yost Arena. After the incident received massive media attention beyond college hockey's borders, Michigan State yesterday suspended the two players for the remainder of the regular season (10 games) and the postseason.
The Detroit News reports that Spartans coach Rick Comley said the players didn't represent their school in a positive manner and must face the consequences:
"What happened near the end of the game this weekend is not the way in which we want our hockey program represented," Comley said. "We cannot condone their actions. ... We felt that we had to send a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated."
Kampfer, an Anaheim Ducks draftee, is out of the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery from some pain in his neck. This situation was magnified, of course, because Kampfer previously suffered a fractured skull this season as a result of an on-campus attack by another Michigan athlete.
It's foolish to think that additional layer of context didn't play into both the media firestorm and this preemptive strike by Michigan State; keep in mind that Tropp (a Buffalo Sabres draftee) would have been given an automatic three-game suspension because he received two game disqualifications, as CCHA's associate commissioner Fred Pletsch told the Detroit News, while Conboy (a Montreal Canadiens draftee) only received a double roughing minor penalty. The CCHA is expected to release its own findings on the matter today.
I'll be interested to see what they are. Because while I hate to defend the indefensible, I'm not sure you can look at the video, look at the punishment from the game officials, look at the extent of Kampfer's injuries (a detestable, but mandatory part of disciplinary evaluations) and come to the conclusion that Conboy deserved what Tropp received.
There's a right way and a wrong way to defend Conboy's role in this. The wrong way is provided by columnist Alex DiFilippo of State News:
With the game all but over, U-M's Steve Kampfer took a run at MSU sophomore forward Corey Tropp at center ice.
In an attempt to stick up for his teammate, MSU freshman Andrew Conboy went after Kampfer to try and teach him a lesson. It was in these mere seconds when both Conboy and Tropp completely lost control.
Conboy punched and threw Kampfer to the ice and Tropp came in and struck Kampfer across the head with his stick. A moment after Tropp committed the violent act, you could see him look down at Kampfer and come to the realization of what had just occurred.
I have talked to Tropp many times and never, ever, would have guessed he would commit such a heinous act.
Yeah, yeah, yeah ... and Chris Simon was a great guy, too.
First off, saying Conboy went after Kampfer because he "took a run" at Tropp is technically true but patently bogus. His vengeance was brutal and overboard, and he deserves something well beyond a double-minor.
But a season? Sorry, I don't agree. If DiFilippo's making the case that Tropp was remorseful, look at Conboy: it almost appears he shoves Tropp away after Tropp skated in. And let's face it: third-man in with slashes to a guy flat on the ice is far and away the greater offense.
Conboy's no saint. He's a goon who leads the team in penalties and penalty minutes. Maybe he gets the season-long gate because he initiated the incident. I just don't think what he did was on the level of what Tropp did, based on the evidence.
Meanwhile, Michigan officials are red-faced about allowing Bruce Kampfer, the player's father, into the Michigan State locker room to face his son's attackers after the game. From The Ann Arbor News, here's a rundown by Bruce Madej, Michigan's associate athletic director for media relations:
Here's Madej's explanation:
A person serving as a event staff worker was standing just outside a holding area blocked off to fans by a large curtain. That area, created to make more space and provide a cushion between players and fans, is located directly in front of the visitors' locker room door.
When the first player - Tropp, a sophomore forward, who was ejected after slashing Steve Kampfer in the neck - came off the ice, the event staff worker's job was to leave his assigned area at the curtain and greet the player as he stepped off the ice and escort him to the locker room door behind the curtain.
When a second player came off the ice - freshman Conboy, after being assessed a 2-minute roughing penalty; there were 53 seconds left in the game, meaning there was no need for him to sit in the penalty box - the event staff worker again left his spot at the entrance to escort him to the locker room.
A moment after the worker left his spot to aid Conboy, Bruce Kampfer walked through the curtain unchecked, walked into the locker room and went after Tropp before DPS officers were called in for assistance.
Embarrassing, no matter the justification. But embarrassing is the name of the game after what happened in this rivalry over the weekend.