SPHL player suspended 28 games for running opposing goalie


The SPHL has handed out punishment for an incident in Saturday’s game between the Columbus Cottonmouths and Peoria Rivermen.

Columbus forward Craig Simchuk, who ran Peoria goaltender Kyle Rank, knocking him unconscious, was banned 28 games, while his head coach, Jerome Bechard, was given a six-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount.

Bechard was accused after the game by Peoria head coach Jean-Guy Trudel of ordering Simchuk to take Rank out after Cottonmouths netminder Shannon Szabados was run in the first period.

Rank left the game on a stretcher, and the game devolved from there with 136 penalty minutes over the final two periods.

Here’s the SPHL’s statement on the suspensions:

The SPHL Office has conducted a thorough investigation of the incident, which included review of the game video and personal statements from Craig Simchuk, Jerome Bechard, the four officials who worked the game on Saturday as well as the SPHL Officiating Supervisor who was in attendance.  No statements were received from the Peoria organization.

Regarding perceived events involving the Columbus goaltender that Mr. Simchuk referred to in his statement as a rationale for his actions, the Columbus organization submitted neither a request for review of incident nor a grievance form regarding the officiating in this regard from Friday’s game.  In addition, review of the game video on Saturday showed nothing that doesn’t occasionally occur over the course of a professional hockey game involving incidental contact with a goaltender.

As it relates to Mr. Simchuk, there is no place in hockey for his actions and deliberately injuring an opposing player will be met with swift and severe punishment and based on our review, we found no corroborating evidence that Mr. Simchuk was directly instructed to injure Peoria goaltender Kyle Rank.

Again, while there was no evidence he instructed Mr. Simchuk’s actions, Coach Jerome Bechard bears responsibility for failing to control the actions of his players and contributing to the atmosphere on the bench to the extent Mr. Simchuk felt pressured to do something from the coaching staff.  As a member of the league’s Board of Governors, Mr. Bechard has to be held to a higher standard and we feel the unprecedented length of this suspension serves to send that message.

Although these suspensions may be appealed to the SPHL Board of Governors, we feel they are both fair and appropriate based on our review and the level of responsibility both parties share. Although Mr. Simchuk has expressed remorse for his actions, ultimately he is responsible for his actions regardless of any pressure he felt from the Columbus coaching staff.

The SPHL season is 56 games total, so this is quite the hefty suspension for Simchuk, who won't be eligible to return until March 19.

Rank was diagnosed with a “significant concussion,” and there is currently no timetable for his return. He told Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star that he has no recollection of the hit.

Stick-tap Scotty Wazz

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!