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Lizard King benched for 35 games
Friday, November 27, 1998. By Neil Davidson, Canadian Press.
Hot on the heels of Jeff Kugel snapping in an Ontario junior game, a Canadian forward has been suspended for 35 games for punching an East Coast Hockey League official.
The ECHL announced Friday it had suspended left-winger Justin McPolin of the Jacksonville Lizard Kings "for applying excessive force towards an on-ice official in the face."
The incident happened last Friday in a game against the New Orleans Brass.
"In my involvement in ice hockey and it's been at all levels, I haven't seen anything as bad and as flagrant as that," said New Orleans head coach Ted Sator, who was a head coach in the NHL with Buffalo and the New York Rangers and an assistant with five other teams. "It even shocked our fans."
Sator said the incident started when the on-ice officials tried to break up a fight involving McPolin.
"Not only did he manhandle the linesman, he attempted to head-butt him and then he punched him," Sator said.
"If you saw the tape, it's very obvious. He lost it," said Jacksonville GM Shawn Hegan. "We're not going to argue at all what the league handed down on this one."
McPolin, who was assessed a game misconduct, was eventually escorted off the ice by his teammates, Sator said,
"One of our guys even asked the ref 'If you need help, would you penalize me if I came over to calm down the situation,' because it was really ugly," Sator said. "The linesman got popped and he got popped good."
McPolin was recently acquired from the Columbus Chill of the ECHL. The six-foot-two 220-pounder had 281 penalty minutes in 43 games at various levels last season.
He was acquired to add toughness, "the team's second biggest problem" after a league-worst offence, the Florida Times Union reported.
In 1996 as a member of the London Knights, McPolin was called the toughest player in the OHL by The Hockey News.
The Lizard Kings had the worst record in the league at 4-11-1 going into Friday night's game against the Florida Everblades.
McPolin has already served three games of the suspension.
"The East Coast Hockey League absolutely does not condone or tolerate any player who use physical force towards an on-ice official and incidents of this nature will receive the strongest possible action from the league office," said Andy Van Hellemond, senior vice-president of hockey operations for the ECHL. Kugel, a member of the Windsor Spitfires, attended an appeal Friday over his lifetime suspension from the OHL for coming off the bench, sucker-punching an opponent and then challenging all-comers.
The OHL said Kugel was eligible to apply for reinstatement at the end of the season.
Hegan said he was not sure whether McPolin had a future as a Lizard King.
"I think he has a future in hockey, I think he's a talented young player. But what he did is not only a reflection on him as a young hockey player but it's also a reflection on us as an organization and we're not pleased with that."