BY GJON JUNCAJ
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 26, 2009
Michigan State hockey coach Rick Comley suspended two players for the remainder of this season for their roles in an on-ice attack on a Michigan player Saturday night.
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Comley said in a written statement yesterday that freshman forward Andrew Conboy and sophomore forward Corey Tropp will miss the Spartans' final 10 regular-season games and any playoff games as punishment for their actions against Michigan junior defenseman Steve Kampfer in the final minute of Saturday's game. Kampfer fell to the ice and was taken to the hospital after Conboy and Tropp struck him with their sticks in separate attacks.
"What happened near the end of the game this weekend is not the way in which we want our hockey program represented," Comley wrote in the statement. "We cannot condone their actions. We felt that we had to send a strong message that this behavior will not be tolerated."
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association released a statement yesterday expressing its full support for the suspensions.
"We feel that the measures taken by Michigan State are appropriate and consistent with the parameters of the sanctions that were being contemplated by the league," wrote CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos, a Michigan State alum.
"That's unacceptable at any level of hockey," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "I alerted our team today that there's going to be emotion in these games. There's physicality in the games. There's frustration, there's the revenge factor, a retaliation factor.
"But there has to be a moment when your sixth sense controls what you do. And that didn't happen.”
Moments after Tropp was ejected from the game, a 48-year-old man from Jackson, Mich. confronted him in the visitor's locker room, according to Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown. Berenson confirmed that the man was Kampfer's father, Bruce Kampfer.
"Yeah, he called me and apologized," Berenson said.
With one minute remaining in Saturday's game, Kampfer made a legal, open-ice hit on Tropp near center ice. Conboy immediately chased after Kampfer and struck him in the head from behind. After Kampfer fell to the ice, Tropp slashed Kampfer's neck with his stick.
A person who was in the room during police questioning said Bruce Kampfer told police that he entered the visitor's locker room after the incident and grabbed Tropp by his jersey. Kampfer said the two were shouting at each other, but were separated before any punches were thrown. The person present at the police interview wasn’t authorized to speak to the press and asked to remain anonymous.
Berenson said he contacted Comley to apologize for the locker room confrontation between Bruce Kampfer and Tropp.
"I apologized to the security around the bench and around the locker room," Berenson said. "And that shouldn't happen, either. But that's other people getting emotional, too, and not making good decisions."
Steve Kampfer maintained yesterday that he was unsure of whether or not his father was the man who confronted Tropp.
Despite Comley's stern condemnation and punishment for the actions of Conboy and Tropp, he believed the hit was not intended to specifically target Kampfer.
"This was an incident that was an emotional, split-second action, for which these players are being punished," Comley wrote. “I do not want this to be portrayed that this was anything pre-meditated, or that any single player was 'targeted.' Their reaction, while inappropriate, was a split-second response that I know they wish they could have back."
Berenson also said the incident didn’t appear to be premeditated.
"I asked Steven, 'Did you have any history with (Tropp)?,” Berenson said. “ 'Was there something last night or last year?' And he said, 'No, nothing, really. It was just a spur of the moment thing.' "
Kampfer was taken out of Yost Ice Arena on a gurney Saturday and transported to a local hospital for what Michigan officials said were "precautionary reasons." He suffered a concussion from the incident, Berenson said.
"Everything came back negative," Kampfer said of tests run after the incident. "It's just a strain in the neck. That's all we're focused on."
Kampfer said he hoped to return to practice today or Wednesday.
"I have a couple of more tests to run, but hopefully everything goes out pretty well," he said. "Everything's just really stiff. But it's like the first couple of days out of the neck brace, just trying to move it around. Everything's fine."
Kampfer said he felt disgusted when watching replays of Conboy and Tropp attacking him.
"It makes me sick to think that somebody could do that,” Kampfer said. “It's unnecessary. I can't speak for them and say that there was intent, but it's uncalled for. I understand it's a heated rivalry, and even more so now. It's something we're not going to forget. The coaches have already told us that."
Berenson said Michigan State officials had contacted him to apologize for the incident. But Kampfer said no one has contacted him personally and that he has no desire to hear from them.