In a spot of bad timing, Plymouth forward Stefan Noesen has been suspended by the Ontario Hockey League for 10 games for a hit in a Dec. 8 game against the Oshawa Generals. According to IIHF by-laws, the suspension may render the big right winger ineligible to participate in the 2013 World Junior Championship, as the international governing body tends to honor discipline from individual leagues.
A source familiar with this process explained that USA Hockey can appeal should the IIHF honor the OHL’s decision, which is what is expected to happen.
Noesen is eligible to return to OHL play on Jan. 11th. Even if the IIHF accounts for time served, the Whalers only have two games between now and the start of the tournament. Noesen already sat out Wednesday night’s game. Using that info, there will be seven games left on Noesen’s suspension which would mean he’d likely have to miss about four or five tournament games. If the IIHF decides to uphold the ruling, it likely dashes Noesen’s hopes.
More after the jump.
Just last year, the IIHF quietly honored the OHL’s 20-game suspension of then-Niagara Ice Dogs forward Tom Kühnhackl, which prevented him from participating for Team Germany in the 2012 IIHF Division I World Junior Championship. The German federation did not appeal and an injury to Kühnhackl may have prevented him from playing anyway, but there’s your precedent. (The only public mention of Kühnhackl’s suspension is in this game story).
IIHF By-Law 302 deals with player suspensions. The important parts are in bold:
Member national associations must honour all IIHF suspensions.
Any penalty that might affect a player participating for his National Team must be reported immediately by the Member National Association to the Chairman of the subsequent IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The first Directorate of such World Ice Hockey World Championship will review the circumstances, impose discipline and may refer the case to the IIHF Disciplinary Committee for further action.
Player suspensions will apply to participation in both ice hockey and In-line hockey competitions irrespective of the competition in which the offence giving rise to the suspension occurred.
Here’s a look at the hit that got Noesen dinged.
The OHL’s added emphasis on contact to the head infractions has led the league to dole out particularly stiff penalties for similar hits. The fact that the big winger left his feet in what could be interpreted as a launch, his hands may have been a bit high and then Oshawa’s Tyler Hore’s head appears to have made contact with the glass, it’s not a real surprise the OHL acted as it did.
During the expected appeal from USA Hockey, the IIHF can make its own decision if they choose to independently review the hit. It would also be expected that time served on the suspension will be taken into account.
Should the IIHF grant some leniency, Noesen could be back, but the IIHF has put an added emphasis on discipline of late. The organization doesn’t always interpret rules consistently, so how they act on this is anyone’s guess. Additionally, the IIHF wants member leagues to honor IIHF suspensions, so that’s a big reason not to be optimistic the IIHF will go against the OHL here (though I’d expect the OHL would rather see Noesen play in the tournament).
Nothing has been finalized in regards to Noesen’s status for the World Junior Championship, so this is still a developing situation. However, at this point, it’s looking more like the U.S. may have to prepare to head to Ufa without the Ottawa first-rounder.
Noesen is expected to be a big part of Team USA’s lineup, possibly playing in a top-six role on the right wing. He had a great camp over the summer and has been terrific in Plymouth with 17 goals and 26 points in 26 games.
If he is unavailable, the U.S. has four projected right wings in camp with Tyler Biggs, J.T. Miller, Riley Barber and Ryan Hartman. The U.S. could also decide to put someone on his off wing if need be.
This development, just two days before the U.S. camp is to begin in New York is an unexpected twist that could alter Team USA’s plans for the WJC in a meaningful way.
United States of Hockey will update this story as more details become available.