Practice had already ended a while back, Monday at Yost Ice Arena. Yet there were still teachings to come.
Michigan coach Mel Pearson had just finished answering questions from a group of reporters in the lobby of the hockey offices. He got up and headed to go join the rest of his staff, but at the last moment — just before disappearing around the corner — he turned back and called for the reporters’ attention.
Pearson had unfinished business.
Earlier that afternoon, the Big Ten had announced a one-game suspension on freshman forward Johnny Beecher for his actions during a brawl that erupted against Ohio State on Saturday at Yost. The suspension was slated to keep Beecher out of Friday’s home game against Wisconsin.
Pearson had already expressed his frustrations with the conference’s decision while sitting down, but wanted to show the reporters, visually, why he was annoyed. So, before going on with his day he invited the group to see a film breakdown of the events that led to the suspension. And in the brief session huddled around a TV that soon followed, he made sure to point out all that was wrong with the decision.
“I just totally disagree with the call, on the record,” Pearson had said prior. “There’s just so many things going on in that play and if you play the game of hockey long enough, you understand everything that was going on there and the context of it.”
Pearson was unhappy about how blame for the scuffle was assigned. The way he saw the play, Beecher did not start it. In recalling the event, Pearson pointed out that Beecher was rather peaceful when first entering the commotion created by forward Ronnie Hein, number 40 for the Buckeyes. Hein had targeted Lockwood, getting him pinned against the bench and thus drawing in all the players. Pearson stressed that Beecher only retaliated after taking a few punches to the head.
“It’s total hypocrisy to me,” Pearson said. “You can write that, too, and I’ll probably get a slap on the wrist. But it is. Watch the video. The video doesn’t lie. It’s all right there if you watch it. Johnny might be the guy holding the gun, but there’s a lot of other things going on there.”
The hockey program provided The Daily with footage of the brawl, and the coach’s description fits the video quite accurately.
Pearson understands why Beecher got a penalty during the game but feels others, such as Hein, should’ve been held to the same standard. In his eyes, Hein’s actions were much more dangerous than Beecher’s.
Following the outbreak, Beecher got a five-minute major for head-butting, a game misconduct plus a suspension — but the video depicts that Beecher’s head whip doesn’t hit the opposing player. Also, Lockwood received a minor for elbowing defenseman Ryan O’Connell before the fight broke out — but one could argue Lockwood’s hit was clean.
Yet Hein received just a minor for roughing while the rest of his team stayed out of the penalty box.
“I’m all for player safety and that, but Will Lockwood was in a much tougher position than Johnny ever put any of their players in,” Pearson said. “ … Will Lockwood was bent over the bench backward and two of their players actually had hands on him while 40 is punching him.”
Pearson believes that the punishment Beecher received during the game was enough and that the suspension is simply over the top.
“He wasn’t putting anybody in danger, no one was getting hurt,” Pearson said. “Like there’s been things that have happened in our league this year where kids have been put in bad positions for serious injury. This was not like that.”