By all accounts, the brawl that erupted between the Keller (Texas) High and Arlington (Texas) Martin High hockey teams in the Silver Division Texas state title game was an epically violent -- and inappropriate -- encounter. The fight between the two teams has been called everything from disgusting to deplorable, with little room for positive reaction in between.
Now two players from the teams involved have been given nearly unprecedented suspensions for their role in the fight, with both players handed bans of at least two years.
According to the Associated Press, one player each from the Martin and Keller squads were handed suspensions totaling 4 1/2 years after a closed hearing in front of Texas Amateur Hockey Association officials. While the AP didn't disclose the players involved, Dallas-Fort Worth TV network KDAF reported that the two players handed suspensions were Keller captain Braxton Mills and Martin's Jeff SaRelle.
KDAF claims that both players were off the ice when the brawl began and re-entered the playing surface as the puck went out of play to join in the fight, providing a different level of involvement that led to their discipline by TAHA.
"Basically [I am] telling them that I'm sorry," Mills told KDAF about his response to the TAHA discipline panel. "I learned from this. I'm taking it a day at a time. [I] Want this to get over with as soon a possible."
The incredibly elongated suspensions are tied to the players' actions in the March 27 brawl between their teams, a fight which left one player with a broken jaw and another with what was rumored to be a Grade 3 concussion.
Because hockey is not an officially sanctioned sport within Texas' University Interscholastic League, there are no standard punishments to hand down to players who cross the lines of acceptable discipline. That left the TAHA free to impose any penalty it saw fit for the brawl, a role it seems to have filled quite willingly.
While the coaches of the two teams may have avoided direct punishment from TAHA, Martin received the most harsh comeuppance possible from the school it represents. As a club team, the hockey squad has to receive Martin's OK to play with an affiliation to the school. After the brawl, Martin reportedly pulled that acceptance, meaning that the team will not exist as the Martin High hockey team in 2011-12.
"We received a letter from the school banning us from using their name, which I think is a cowardly move by the school," Arlington-Martin Hockey coach Louis Greco told KDAF.
No matter what happens to the Martin and Keller programs going forward, TAHA High School Section president Keith Andreson said the most important aspect of the bans levied by the organization was the message it sends to future high school hockey players.
"The main thing is we want to make sure kids that are growing up in the game, the little guys, five, six, seven and eight-years-olds, and their parent," Andreson told KDAF. "They understand that that's not the norm and that's not what they have to look forward too."