AHL suspends Downie indefinitely (updated)
Lightning minor leaguer Steve Downie, of AHL Norfolk, was suspended indefinitely Sunday by the AHL pending an investigation into an incident in Saturday night's game between the Admirals and Hershey.
Downie was written up for abuse of an official after a determination Downie slashed linesman Mike Hamilton with 14 seconds left in the third period. But Norfolk GM Mike Butters said Downie was trying to swipe at the stick of Hershey player Andrew Joudrey on a faceoff. He added that even if Downie's stick hit Hamilton's skate (and Butters said that after watching the video "70 times in slow motion, stop fame" he still is not sure that happened), it was unintentional.
"I am absolutely sure," Butters said Sunday, "there was no intent whatsoever for any aggressive actions toward the official."
Butters said the official did not fall on the play and there was no interaction between player and official after the faceoff. Butters said he was shocked Downie was written up.
But then there is this from Hershey broadcaster John Walton, who wrote on his blog:
"The two teams came to center ice for the face-off, and Downie stepped into the face-off circle. Linesman (Mike) Hamilton prepared to drop the puck. Instead of trying to win the face-off, Downie took a baseball-like swing with full wind-up and struck Hamilton across the right shin. Watching the replay no less than 20 times myself during the postgame, I was appalled not only at the lack of respect for an official, but the sheer violence from one man to another."
Walton later said in a phone interview the video is clear Hamilton was hit on his right shin. He also said Hamilton received medical attention from the Bears staff after the game and that he had "a big welt."
Here is what Butters said happened:
The game, which seemed so well in hand for the Admirals, came apart at the seams as Hershey scored three times in the final 3:03 to earn a 6-4 victory. Butters said when Downie and Joudrey lined up for a faceoff, the Hershey player was yapping. Butters said Downie tried to, with authority, smack the stick of the Hershey player on the faceoff and ended up firing the puck sideways into the Norfolk bench.
"The linesman was really not even part of this," Butters said. "The centerman across from (Downie) was yapping at him. "(Downie) went to swipe at the stick. He swung in a downward motion and hit the puck. The intent was there to hit the puck. He may or may not have clipped the official's skate."
AHL spokesman Jason Chaimovitch said the league will have no additional comment until it sees video of the incident and renders a decision. He said that may not happen until Tuesday.
Downie, 21, acquired from the Flyers in the Matt Carle trade, has had a colorful career. He was suspended 20 games by the NHL after leaving his feet to deliver a hit to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in a preseason game. He was suspended three games earlier this season for hitting Worcester's Kyle McLaren from behind.
He also is one of Norfolk's better players with eight goals, 25 points, plus-7 and 107 penalty minutes in 22 games. Butters said Downie's reputation likely played a part in the player being written up.
"Absolutely," Butters said. "Whether it's a fair statement or not, it's going to happen with him. It's something he has to be aware of."
But Butters said the officials also have to be aware of game situations.
"It was clearly an emotional moment when I think the official may have overreacted," Butters said.