NHL administers justice for Vermette slash on linesman Shandor Alphonso.
The National Hockey League suspended Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette 10 games Thursday for his two-handed slash of rookie linesman Shandor Alphonso during the Ducks’ Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
In addition to the 10-game ban, Vermette will forfeit $97,222.22 of his salary, based on his annual salary per NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
With 12:30 to go in the third period, Alphonso dropped the puck Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota, for a neutral zone faceoff between Vermette and the Wild’s Mikko Koivu.
What happened next has the hockey world shaking its head.
Koivu won the draw and Vermette stayed still, then turned to Alphonso and gave him a two-handed slash across the back of his right leg. Vermette, 34, a veteran of 968 NHL games, was given a 10-minute misconduct for official abuse and ejected from the game.
Alphonso wasn’t injured. The Orange County Register reported that Vermette had been miffed that the puck was dropped when he wasn’t set for the draw.
Alphonso was promoted to full-time status this season, ending a two-year apprenticeship that had him officiating 40 NHL games and 40 American Hockey League contest. He joined veteran Jay Sharrers, his role model, and the NHL’s only other black on-ice official.
The league had to decide whether Vermette would receive a 20-game suspension for intentionally trying to injure an official or the 10-game ban for the use of physical force against an official without intent to injure.
Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle told The Register that Vermette’s action “wasn’t really a vicious or any type of malice thing.”
“He wasn’t trying to hurt anybody,’ the coach told the newspaper. “It was more of a tap to blow-the-whistle-type of thing. Because usually what happens, if they do drop tje puck unfairly, the linesman or the referee will blow the whistle and reset it.”
The Color of Hockey’s Lew Serviss wrote this article.
Hockey fans, take a bow, dab, break out into a happy dance, or do whatever makes you feel good.
Your kindness and generosity upon reading about the plight of the Tucker Road Ducks, a predominantly black Maryland youth team plunged into hockey homelessness after a two-alarm fire severely damaged its rink in January, helped the team exceed its GoFundMe goal of raising $10,000.
Caring fans donated $10,130 as of Monday. The money will be used to help the Prince George’s County, Maryland, hockey team pay for ice rental time at rinks in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia area until the Tucker Road Ice Rink is repaired or rebuilt.
The team is still accepting donations in anticipation of having to rent ice time away from home during the 2017-18 hockey season.
“We were only at maybe a little over $2,000 before the blog,” Koi Hamm, the secretary/treasurer of the nonprofit Tucker Road Parents Hockey Organization told me. “We’re just so excited. A few donations, people put their names so we had the kids sign cards just because we want them (donors) to know that we appreciate it.”
People donated what they could – $5, $10, $30 a pop. Some big checks came, too. The Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals contributed $5,300. The Ducks also received an anonymous donation of $1,500.
“We are extremely grateful to the Washington Capitals and Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation for helping us exceed our fundraising goal,” said Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization President Alexandria Briggs-Blake. “The generous support we have received from our community, other organizations and people from around the country, means that the Ducks Ice Hockey Team will be able to afford precious ice time at other rinks while Tucker Road is closed for repairs.”
The Ducks are also hoping for an outpouring of support in the the Kraft Hockeyville “For the Love of Hockey” contest, urging folks to go online and nominate their rink to receive $150,000 in upgrades and an NHL preseason game.
Meanwhile, the Ducks rink misfortune has brought some much-needed major media attention to their plight.
“That blog post actually had people calling us from ESPN, FOX 5,” Ducks Coach Rahman-Rahim “Coach Rock” B’ath told me. “That blog put us above and beyond on everything that we needed, and we fully appreciate it.”
Coach Rock was interviewed by ESPN News on Friday and a crew from Washington’s WTTG, FOX 5, attended the Ducks’ game Saturday night at the Herbert Wells Ice Rink in College Park, Maryland. A segment about the team should air on the station in a couple of weeks.
“People are interested, the word is out, and I’m really glad about that,” Hamm said. “I think this will help push them in not dragging their feet in doing the repairs for with rink. It’s going to be a tremendous help because now I think we’ll get a lot of traction in making sure that they don’t put it on the back-burner. We don’t want this to take five years to rebuild.”
The Ducks players, parents, and coaches have vowed to keep the unique program – which makes hockey accessible to minority and low-income families by providing players with free equipment and charging only $200 in team fees annually – alive despite the devastating blaze closing its home barn for what’s likely to be a long time.
Officials from Prince George’s County and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission met with concerned patrons of the badly damaged rink last week, Hamm said. The county has put a Tucker Road Ice Rink update page on the Prince George’s parks website.
“They showed us pictures of the rink – there’s a lot of structural damage,” Hamm said. “The’re still awaiting the engineering report to really determine how much damage. But there’s damage to the roof, to the beams. I don’t anticipate the rink being open any time soon.”
She said officials are “looking at solutions for us to have some type of ice team closer to our home rink.”
Since the blaze, the Ducks have been embraced by the Washington-area hockey community, with teams offering to share practice ice team and set up games.
But there’s no place like home, and the Ducks players and parents can’t wait to return to theirs.
“We’re hopeful because they do say they want to make Tucker Road better than what it was,” Hamm said. “But the children are just devastated that they can’t go to their home rink – they got so much ice time there. We just want our rink back.”
Fatima Al Ali, a member of the United Arab Emirates women’s national hockey team, has mad stick-handling skills and a shy personality.
Both were on display this week as the Washington Capitals, and Emirates airlines, brought her to the Nation’s Capital to meet All-Star forward Alex Ovechkin and to drop the puck at the start of the Caps’ 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night.
Ali called her time this week practicing with the Capitals’ and watching them play at Washington’s Verizon Center against the Carolina Hurricanes and Red Wings a dream come true.
After she dropped the puck at Thursday night’s game, Ali showed off another slick move, whipping out her phone and taking a selfie at center ice with Ovechkin and Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg.
This is a story about fire and ice, hockey homelessness, and black players in pink jerseys.
The Tucker Road Ducks, a three-year-old team made up of African-American boys ages 11 to 14, had a healthy slate of games this season, its first ever road tournament coming up in March, and tons of practice time at the Tucker Road Ice Rink, its home barn in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Then an electrical spark ignited a two-alarm fire that raged through the roof of the rink on January 4, severely damaging the building, ruining thousands of dollars worth of donated hockey equipment down to the team’s signature pink and black jerseys, and leaving a fledgling minority youth hockey program wondering how it will go on without a place to play.
The rink remains closed more than a month after the blaze. Prince George’s County government officials say it will be rebuilt, but haven’t given a timetable for repairs. In the meantime, Ducks players are among the hockey homeless – nomads in search of ice whenever and wherever they can get it.
The team appears to be down, but they are by no means out. Resolve has kicked in, from players to coaches to parents.
“Tucker Road is the place I call home,” Ryan Hamm, a 13-year-old Ducks center/defenseman told me recently. “I see the fire as obviously emotional,…it’s kind of tragic but it’s also motivation for me to get better at hockey.”
Team Coach Rahman-Rahim B’ath, borrowed a line from the sage Bluto Blutarsky, the John Belushi character in “Animal House,” when he described the Ducks’ fate: “Nothing is over until we decide it is.”
“It’s not going to be ‘Oh well, Tucker Road burned down and that was the end of their program,'” B’ath, also known as Coach Rock, told me recently. “When everything is cut and parents are, like, ‘Alright, we’re done,’ then we’re done. But right now, the kids are pushing, the parents are pushing, the coaches are pushing. We have their backs – no matter what.”
The Tucker Road Parents Hockey Organization, a nonprofit 501c3 entity, started a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 to help with the sudden expenses that the program dedicated to helping make hockey affordable and accessible to families now faces.
“We’re hanging in there, doing what we can,” parent organization president President Alexandria Briggs-Blake told me. “Our kids don’t know what to do with themselves now on Saturdays and Sundays. They’re, like, ‘Is Tucker Road fixed yet?'”
The Washington, D.C.-area hockey community has pitched in to help. When word spread about the fire, the Knights – an Arlington, Virginia, youth hockey team – offered to share some of its ice time at The Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Maryland.
With a tournament in York, Pennsylvania, looming next month, Ducks coaches hope to supplement the donated ice with rented ice time – if they can find any in the youth hockey-mad D.C., Maryland, Virginia area.
“The times they have to practice are going to be pretty horrible for the rest of the season – 10:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. or like 6:30 a.m.,” Coach Rock said.
Still, Koi Hamm, Ryan’s mother and Secretary/Treasurer of the parent organization, is grateful for whatever the team can get and is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the local hockey community.
“We’ve just received so much love from our neighboring rinks…people have been really embracing us,” Hamm said. “It’s just a testament of how closely-knit hockey families are.”
Local rinks and opposing clubs love what the Ducks have accomplished in giving minority and low-income kids the opportunity to play hockey. The team is an offshoot of the Tucker Road rink’s “Give it a Shot” initiative, which provides equipment to kids interested in learning how to play hockey.
The initiative created a critical mass of players three years ago, enough to field a pee-wee/bantam team under the tutelage of Coach Rock and a cadre of parents like Hamm, who skated at Tucker Road in her teen years.
The team makes hockey accessible by making it affordable, charging parents $200 a season, a fee that includes gear. Other youth teams in the area charge two or three times that amount for a season.
“Hockey is one of the most expensive sports, so you don’t see too many low-income kids playing the sport,” said Max Levitt, executive director of Level the Playing Field, a program that’s provided donated equipment to the Ducks over the years. “Tucker Road (rink), like Fort Dupont, is in a unique situation in that you don’t see sheets of ice in generally minority communities. Anytime you go to an ice rink and see 10 African-American players on the ice at one time, it’s pretty unique.”
Ducks players learn about the game of hockey, but they also learn life skills through the sport. They must maintain their grades or they can’t set foot onto the ice. They also learn to interact with others beyond their neighborhoods.
“Hockey’s a predominantly white sport, but I try not to think of it so much as color because when the kids play, they don’t think of it that way,” said Briggs-Blake, whose 17-year-old son, Antonio, skated for the Ducks. “My son, he’s the only African-American on his junior hockey team now, and these kids don’t even look at that. They love each other, talk to each other, hang out, go to each other’s houses.”
Briggs-Blake dreams of the day the Ducks go back to their house – the Tucker Road ice rink. Parents are bird-dogging the Prince George’s County government, trying to insure that the rink is a front-burner issue and will be rebuilt sooner rather than later.
And while the construction workers have their hammers out, Briggs-Blake has one suggestion.
“What about building two sheets of ice?” she said. “We have dreams and visions.”