NANAIMO - A B.C. intermediate A lacrosse game boiled over on Saturday in Nanaimo, an incident that has been condemned by both teams involved.
The game pitted the Nanaimo Timbermen against the Coquitlam Adanacs in their first meeting of the season. The game disintegrated late in the second period as Cody Reed scored to put Coquitlam up 15-4.
Reed was hit by the Timbermen's Jordan Kuziuk, who seconds later was crosschecked by the Adanacs' Zachary Hartman, who was playing in his first game back after missing time due to a concussion.
At that point a line brawl broke out and eventually both benches emptied. The game was called with 47 seconds left in the frame.
The incident was caught on video, posted on Youtube and has gone viral.
B.C. Intermediate A Lacrosse League commissioner Gene Regier came down hard on both teams, handing out 15 suspensions, but would not disclose who has been suspended, nor the lengths of those suspensions.
"It's the first time this has happened to me as a commissioner," said Regier, who has been in his position for 12 years. "I've seen them at senior games, but this is the first one I've had to deal with."
While fights are not out of the ordinary in lacrosse, they generally do not escalate to the level this one did and there were several complicating factors: Hartman was playing his first game after missing time due to a concussion; as soon as Hartman hit Kuziuk, multiple Timbermen jumped Hartman; the Adanacs' trainer, who was in his first lacrosse game, jumped onto the floor almost immediately, adding to the confusion; the benches emptied, with Coquitlam's players appearing to enter the fray first and the Timbermen were trailing 15-4.
"Tempers are hot and fiery and someone might have said something to them and there you go," said Regier. "Things happen in an instant, there's a lot of testosterone flowing on the floor."
Timbermen's team governor Bruce Clark has been involved in lacrosse for many years and was in Kentucky to watch his son graduate from a NCAA division 1 playing career on Saturday. Clark said he was "in horror" when he heard what happened.
"It has been our practice to both win and lose with dignity," said Clark in an e-mail. "Young men don't like to have lopsided wins or their noses rubbed in it. This is not an excuse. What happened was appalling and a black mark on our game."
While the commissioner would not say who was suspended, only that he followed B.C. Lacrosse Association guidelines, it is safe to say the players originally on the floor for each team - Keyon Magnan, Cole Hering, Levi Palmiere, Tanner Therstien, goalie Nate Clark and Kuziuk for Nanaimo; Cam Bateman, Spencer Stevens, Jean-Luc Chetner, Hartman and Reed for Coquitlam - could each face at least a one-game suspension, and the first ones off the bench will get at least two games.
Footage of the brawl went viral on Youtube and was picked up by numerous sports blogs and websites.
Adanacs coach Steve McKinley said Hartman was "pretty dazed on the ferry ride home" and was scheduled to see a doctor this week.
McKinley says that the game started to break down early in the first period that ended in a 5-3 lead for the Adanacs and that he talked to the officials about it in the intermission.
While he denies Coquitlam was the aggressor in the brawl, up 15-4 at the time, he says his team certainly played their part.
"I'm not happy with what our team did, to me it disrespects the game," said McKinley. "The game's given me a lot of my life. It's not the way that the game should be played and it's unfortunate that both teams lost control."
Nanaimo had an interim coach behind the bench - Andrew Roe, who was filling in with their regular head coach unavailable and Clark in Kentucky. Roe did not want to comment on how the game broke down until he could discuss the matter with Clark, but did say that he did not approve of the end result.
"I love this game, I've been involved with it since I was a kid, and (the brawl) does nothing for it," said Roe. "Sometimes this is what attracts the wrong people to the game."