BY RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Writer
Published November 11, 2009
It was a night full of images that the Michigan hockey team would like to forget.
Defenseman Steve Kampfer lying motionless on the ice after an illegal slash. His father, Bruce, charging into the visitor’s locker room to confront Michigan State forward Corey Tropp, one of the perpetrators of the on-ice assault against his son. And all of Yost Ice Arena watching Kampfer stunned as the events slowly unfolded.
But with the incident of last year’s Jan. 24 game against the Spartans nearly 10 months behind them, the Michigan coaches are confident that their team has moved on from the emotional happenings of that night.
“The incident last year was unfortunate, it was uncalled for, and it was dealt with well on the other end,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “As far as we were concerned, it’s over. It never carried over after that, and it won’t carry over this year.”
So with the emotional charge of an in-state rivalry, coupled with last year’s events, Berenson made it a point to emphasize the that this year's matchup against the Spartans will be a testament to playing clean and focused hockey — something that was missing when the Wolverines tallied 51 penalty minutes in the third period of last Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio).
“(Last year’s incident) happened when a team was losing, and they got frustrated,” Berenson said. “You saw a little bit of that from us last weekend, and if I have anything to say about it, and I do, there won’t be any more of it.”
And the CCHA assumes the same thing, especially after measures have been taken to limit repercussions off the ice, like what happened last season.
The confrontation with Bruce Kampfer, who declined comment for this story, is believed to be one of the reasons for implementing a new credential system soon after that required a special clearance to be in certain areas of Yost Ice Arena.
"I can't coach the parents,” Berenson said of the breach at the time. “I called (Michigan State) coach (Rick) Comley and I apologized for the security around the bench and around the locker room. ... We've had no incidents up until now in the back locker room. That's why we put the locker room there, so there'd be no crossover of players and fans, and no skirmishes at the end of games or between periods. So it's been fine. But obviously ... they're dealing with it."
Today, with newer safety measures in place and the incident behind Michigan, Berenson says he can understand the emotional outburst of a father seeing his son assaulted on the ice.
“Parents are emotionally charged, and they don’t have the same rules we do on the ice,” Berenson said.
CCHA Associate Commissioner Fred Pletsch called Michigan’s approach to handling the security situation “proactive” and noted that the CCHA did not have to step in to implement any additional penalties or suspensions after Comley suspended Tropp and accomplice Andrew Conboy for the remainder of the season.
But with Tropp now the leading scorer in the CCHA, reminders of last year’s incident will be abound as the Spartans return to Yost Ice Arena, even with the team’s assurance that it is behind them.
“That’s behind everybody,” assistant coach Mel Pearson said. “The two players, Tropp and Kampfer, they’ve put that behind them as well. The most important thing is getting the three points in the hockey game.”