Spartans to be without multiple players, head coach after brawl

The Southern Oregon Spartans will be down a few players and their head coach heading into this weekend's road contests because of a benches-clearing fight two weeks ago.

Second-year head coach Steve Chelios was suspended for five games and five Southern Oregon players were issued various suspensions by the Northern Pacific Hockey League after the fight, which occurred against the Puget Sound Tomahawks on Oct. 15 at The RRRink in Medford.

The Spartans (5-4) travel to play the Tomahawks (1-12) at 7:30 tonight at Bremerton Rink in Bremerton, Wash.

Five Puget Sound players were also suspended. All but one player who was penalized — forward Kyle Neal — will be available tonight because the Tomahawks have played five matches since Oct. 15. Tomahawks head coach Jason Quinn was issued a three-game suspension.

The fight began when a Southern Oregon player hit Puget Sound's goalkeeper about midway through the second period, said NORPAC commissioner Mike Butters, who reviewed several video accounts of the brawl.

Butters also analyzed referee reports and statements from both teams. He and referee-in-chief Steve Stevens made and enforced the ruling.

"A skirmish broke out behind the net," Butters said. "A Puget Sound player essentially came in defending the goalie and things escalated.

"Things got out of hand and a lot of people were involved in the incident."

As part of the suspension, Chelios said he will have limited involvement with the squad and can not travel to Washington, where Southern Oregon plays two games at Puget Sound and once at Seattle. Chelios has already served one game.

Both Chelios and Quinn are on probation by the league for the rest of the season, Butters said. Chelios had already been issued a two-game suspension earlier this season.

"If they receive any more game misconduct it could lead to their termination or suspension for the remainder of the season or longer," Butters said. "Obviously, we don't take events like these lightly and we want to eliminate stuff like that."

In the controversial match, seven Southern Oregon players scored and the Spartans beat the Tomahawks, 9-1. The brawl can be viewed on the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube by visiting

"We had a rough weekend (and) an experience you don't want to go through as a coach or as a player," Chelios said last Friday on Mail Tribune Sports Chat. "It is something that used to be in the game but there's no need for it anymore. It was unfortunate it happened that way but the guys stuck together, they went out and took care of each other. Together as a team, we are going to get through it and never face a situation like that again."

Southern Oregon forward Saylor Preston received a five-game suspension, defender Greg Evans four games and forward Tim Munoz, defender Jake Sexton and defender Kyle Watne two games apiece for their involvement.

Evans has five points on the year and Munoz and Preston four for Southern Oregon, which has been off since a match on Oct. 16.

Mike Feagan, who is first on the team in goals with seven and tied for second in points with 12, must serve a two-game suspension for his actions in a match the following night against the River City Jaguars.

The Spartans, who won eight games in the 2009-10 season and went 1-47 in 2008-2009, return home to take on the Eugene Generals at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 5 at The RRRink.

"Now that we had this incident last weekend, I just hope that people understand this is not something we condone, this is not something we are happy about that happened, but it did happen," Chelios said. "We are moving forward. And I think anybody that will be coming out in the future will see exciting hockey, fun hockey and physical hockey."

Butters added that the number of suspensions and misconduct infractions has been lower this season than in year's past. The last benches-clearing fight he could remember occurred during the 2004-05 season.

"They don't happen often," Butters said. "When they do, suspensions are handed down firmly and swiftly."

Quinn also emphasized that the brawl was a lamentable aberration.

"Players knew it wasn't acceptable and it's not a regular thing," he said. "It doesn't happen very often and when it does, you have to pay the price and try not to let it happen again."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail

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