Ahead of tonights game against the Dundee Stars, which will see the return of Kyle Haas from suspension, Gary Jackson reflects on the events that led to the Stars #25 3 game suspension.
Sunday 14th November our very own Belfast Giants travelled to Dundee to take on the Stars in a league game which was televised on Premier Sports. I sat down to watch this game with a heightened sense of intrigue.
The Giants, despite having brushed aside both Fife and Dundee in the challenge cup group, had not had the most enjoyable starts to the League campaign, amassing just 6 points from 6 games. Hardly title challenging form. It wasn’t however the opportunity or expectation of the Giants being able to kickstart their league campaign which had wet my whistle for this one.
In the week leading up to this game, various Belfast Giants facebook forums and other social media had been awash with accusations that this team was not one who would stand up for one another, that didn’t have an enforcer. A team that didn’t have team toughness and that let other teams walk all over them.
One team, and one player in particular was singled out as having rode roughshod over us in previous encounters this season, Dundee Stars and their #25 Kyle Haas.
I had several conversations on various forums about how i didn’t believe that dropping the gloves or targeting Haas was the answer, especially since we had picked up the majority of the points against Dundee by playing our own game and largely ignoring him and letting him sit in the penalty box. Others disagreed, baying for blood and retribution for what i can only describe as a sideshow performance at the SSE Arena last time out.
Kyle Haas is a 27 year old Canadian defenceman standing 6ft 2 weighing in at 220lbs, he has trodden the well travelled path from the ECHL to the EIHL. Dundee in their signing announcement billed him as “Sheriff Kyle Haas,”. Those of us in either Belfast, or indeed Dundee, who were around at the start of the last decade will remember the last player to come to these rinks with the Sheriff moniker. Surely alarm bells should have been ringing? Well let’s turn them up a notch, he led the ECHL PIM chart with 164 in 45 games, more on this later.
As i tuned in to Premier Sports, the now familiar faces of Aaron Murphy and former Belfast Giants league winning head coach, Paul Adey told us that the Dundee Stars were missing, basically, a full line of players, their roster was so short it looked like they had marked out covid compliant social distancing measures on the bench.
“Ah well” i thought, there won’t be any sideshow here, at least i’ll be able to enjoy the game. Slightly disappointed if I’m honest. I don’t really do match reports but what i will say is Dundee came out in the first and played the short bench game almost perfectly trading penalties with the Giants, and holding them pretty much at arms length, going in at 0-0.
Dundee Centre Spencer Dorowicz picked up an injury midway through the period which would see him sit the rest of the game. Dundee would now be down 6 skaters.
In the second period the Giants picked up a 2-0 lead, and then whilst killing a penalty, Ben Lake was clear on goal for a short handed attempt when he was slashed form behind, a penalty shot. The shot was saved by Morrison, who by the way had an incredible game, until he went down with cramp which was treated by packets of yellow mustard (no, me neither).
Our commentators told us this could well be a turning point in the game, 2-0 and penalty saved as opposed to 3-0 and dead and buried. Dundees luck was on empty as Kris Inglis fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off, so for those who need a recap, Dundee were now 7 players short, and had just 4 defencemen. They had just had just saved a penalty shot to swing momentum in their favour, and in fact went on to score a pretty sweet goal themselves. 2-1. That goal coming after Ruopp, who had been slashed by Charlie Combs, retaliated with the most half hearted roughing penalty you have ever seen. I was livid! Stupid selfish penalty I yelled at the TV, and possible on Twitter. The scene was set.
Up until this point Haas was well behaved. In fact, what we noticed about him was he actually has a bit of game about him, a solid defenceman who seemed to have realised his team needed all hands to the pump, a no guts no glory performance, next man up, other sporting cliches. Haas took a 2 minute minor for roughing, and to be honest, I can’t even remember what the story with that was, other than the Giants powerplay… well that’s a whole other article in itself.
I could hear Tyler Beskorowany banging his stick frantically as the penalty drew to a close. Boucher picked the puck up on the left boards deep within the Stars zone, facing his own net, skated back to the blue line and made a move across to a central ice area of the Dundee zone. I don’t want to victim blame here, but i have to say, you just don’t do that, i’ve seen countless analysis of NHL games where a forward has made a similar move and ended up laid out, so for the sake of fairness, Boucher was there to be hit, and I don’t blame Haas for lining him up.
When i seen the blue shirt appear on the bottom of the screen i must have gasped, for my partner turned her head away from the tv to see what was wrong with me, i knew what was coming. Haas accelerated at first, picking up a fair bit of speed straight towards Boucher, before lining the hit up and exploding into the hit, which my first impression was a straight to the head hit. Haas’ own momentum carried him off his skates so that only the smallest part of one blade had remained on the ice, (i think had he completely left the ice we would be talking a much longer ban) and as he spun round he was greeted by King of Stout, Darcy Murphy, a few digs exchanged while everyone else tied up, but the “fight,” was over before it even began.
This did my argument no good at all. Haas was let off the hook so many times before he felt he could do this and escape any meaningful retribution from a Giants player, Boucher could have been seriously injured, although, and give him credit he got straight up and played his next shift. Concussion protocol anyone? Haas for his part was given a 5+Game for charging, and 5 for fighting. DOPS reviewed the hit and this has resulted in a 3 game ban. At the same time a Sheffield Steelers player checked a Devils players head into the boards and received a 2 game ban, some people have questioned the consistency but i actually think this shows the consistency, Haas has been in front of DOPS already this season has been fined and warned about future conduct, no doubt in my mind a further identical hit by Haas and we are talking an even longer ban. So far, i like what DOPS are doing this season.
I don’t think I’m wrong about Haas, he’s a man who thrives on the physical side of hockey, he lives and breathes for it 164 PIM in 45 games is insignificant compared to his 116 in 9 so far in the UK. I don’t for one second believe that had a Paxton, a Skihar, a Carlisle Lewis, an Adam Keefe or any other hard man we have had over the years danced with Haas in the earlier games, Haas would have thought twice about that hit, it’s in his nature, in his blood. He left his team with 3 defencemen, down 7 players, with just 6 on the bench. If anything i feel rewarding his side show with a fight would almost encourage him to hit harder and cheaper. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. We have to have faith in the system, that the punishments handed out will deter him, or if not, deter the Dundee Stars and Omar Pacha from playing him, or someone will get injured. Haas needs to realise he is playing in 2021 not 2001, the UK short benches cannot accommodate a goon. Pacha is a smart hockey man and I have a feeling Haas is literally skating on thin ice already.
Gary got in touch with us to share his thoughts by e-mailing us a KotG.
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Words: Gary Jackson
Photo: YouTube / Premier Sports
Video: EIHL Department of Player Safety / Dundee Stars / AVFTB