The Federal Prospects Hockey League has had a lot of awful things happen over its 10 years of play, but last night in Carolina might have been the worst on-ice moment in the league’s history.
With just four seconds left in last night’s game, and the Carolina Thunderbirds literally seconds away from celebrating a 7-2 win, Brody Duncan of the Mentor Ice Breakers got the puck off a meaningless face-off win, and fired an all-out slap shot into the Carolina bench, triggering a series of fights and retaliation from Carolina that included two of their players leaving the bench to stand up for their team.
It was an awful, scary moment, where reportedly one person in the Carolina bench was hit, but was thankfully not seriously injured.
But just because nobody was seriously injured doesn’t mean Duncan shouldn’t get the harshest punishment possible: Banned from the FPHL.
Again, nobody was seriously hurt, but a puck moving at 90+ miles per hour, and from that close, means nobody would have time to react on that bench, even if they were players in equipment, or the head coach, or the trainer, or whoever else is down there with the players.
And that’s without even taking into account what might have happened had he misfired on the “shot” attempt and put it up into the crowd where there’s no netting to protect the fans. If any of that happens, he, Mentor, and probably the FPHL are facing a boatload of lawsuits. Instead, we got two Carolina players who, rightfully, jumped off the bench to go after Duncan and serve their own brand of justice in the moment.
And really, a lifetime ban might seem excessive, but there’s a couple reasons the league should come down as hard as possible on him for this incident.
First, and we’ve written about this a number of times, but the Fed doesn’t exactly have the most sterling reputation in the hockey world. The fans who have teams in their areas seem to like and enjoy the product, but those outside of the league’s footprint take notice only when the league has something awful like this happen. So if the league wants to start to be taken seriously by the people who aren’t involved in the league, send a message to them, current players, and future players by showing them that something like Duncan did won’t ever be allowed again. Maybe you think that’s a bit excessive, but again, he might have seriously injured someone, or worse, if that puck had did what he clearly hoped it would. Just because that didn’t happen does not excuse what he did at all.
Again, look at that video above, this was no accident where you might say, “OK he was trying to dump it down on a penalty kill or something.” There were four seconds left in the game, and he is 100% aiming right at the Carolina bench on a slap shot attempt that had everything behind it. And then when it came time to pay the piper for what he did, he tried to spear Michael Bunn of Carolina for coming after him. A spear alone would be a long suspension, but add it onto what he did before, and at minimum there is no way he should see the ice again this season.
Secondly, there actually is a little bit of precedent for something like this: A couple seasons back in the SPHL, Jason Price of the Knoxville Ice Bears unleashed a similar type of shot into the bench of the Huntsville Havoc. Price, who ended up injuring a trainer after the puck struck him in the head, was indefinitely suspended by the SPHL for the incident, and sat out for roughly a season and a half before he was allowed to sign with another team and return to playing. Even after that long, many fans in the SPHL to this day still feel like he shouldn’t have been allowed back.
Yes, part of the appeal of the Fed comes from it being somewhat reckless and it having more fights than any league this side of the LNAH, but those things should happen as a result of actual tough play and hits, not some guy firing a dangerous, needless, slap shot into the opposing team’s bench with four seconds left.
When you take all that into account, banning Duncan for life starts to make a lot of sense, and honestly might be the only option for the league. More importantly, sends a message that bush league stuff like what he did won’t be tolerated going forward, and that nobody will ever try to do it again.
As for the players who left the Carolina bench, we 100% get and respect their decision to do so, you can’t have something like that happen and not defend your team. So when they get multiple-game suspensions as well (Carolina has already signed its coach and broadcaster to PTOs for today’s game, so suspensions are coming), it will be both well deserved, and completely necessary. But at the same time, you have to applaud them for stepping in and putting Duncan in his place, in what very well could be his last time on the ice in the FPHL.