Stefan Noesen tweeted this morning that he is leaving Team USA’s camp. It appears the IIHF has ruled him ineligible for the 2013 World Junior Championship due to his still outstanding 10-game suspension in the Ontario Hockey League.
USA Hockey has not officially commented on Noesen’s status yet.
UPDATED: USA Hockey has officially announced that the IIHF has ruled Noesen ineligible for the 2013 World Junior Championship.
From USA Hockey:
Noesen, who plays for the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, was suspended for 10 games by the OHL for a hit in a game on Dec. 8. The IIHF recognizes suspensions from certified leagues in member federations and because there will be seven games remaining in Noesen’s suspension prior to the start of the IIHF World Junior Championship, Noesen will not be eligible for participate in the tournament.
“While we respect the IIHF’s decision, we don’t feel the process is equitable,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “Moving forward, we’ll work with the IIHF and other federations to address the situation.”
— Stefan Noesen (@ScubaShteve93) December 17, 2012
Noesen was suspended for what the OHL deemed an illegal hit on Dec. 8. He is eligible to return to OHL play on Jan. 11. As a result, via IIHF By-Law 302, Noesen would have had to miss the majority of Team USA’s games at the WJC as the rule states: “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.”
Team USA Jim Johannson told reporters yesterday, “We’re working on it as best we can. It takes a lot of communication with a lot of people right now. It’s a little bit of uncharted territory for everybody. All I can say is I’m working on it as hard as I can. And I’ve been happy with the cooperation but it’s a difficult position for everybody and everyone involved is giving it the right diligence right now.”
The IIHF does review all suspensions and can make decisions on eligibility independent of the suspension levied from an outside league. It appears the organization felt comfortable with the length as decided by the OHL.
More than anything else, it’s bad timing. Canada’s Jonathan Huberdreau received a four game suspension from the QMJHL just last week. However, even though Huberdeau wouldn’t have played in the games anyway, his Saint John Sea Dogs will have played enough games to forgive the suspension before the World Juniors, at least in the eyes of the IIHF. Noesen’s Plymouth Whalers would not have, leaving
about four or five games seven games left to serve, which is why he’s out.
Now the U.S. will be without a player who was expected to play a sizable role, probably top-six. Noesen’s size and scoring ability will be tough for Team USA to replace adequately, but the door opens wider for guys like Ryan Hartman and Riley Barber to hop into a more established role.
Losing Noesen could change plans for how Team USA is built. There are four projected right wingers in camp (Hartman, Barber, Tyler Biggs and J.T. Miller), but natural center Rocco Grimaldi can also play on the right side. The U.S. will have some decisions to make as to which guys best fill the void left by Noesen.
For Noesen, it probably doesn’t get any tougher than this. This year is his last opportunity to play at the World Junior Championship after being in the mix last season, but ultimately not making the squad.
The OHL has been extraordinarily strict on perceived checks to the head, which is certainly a good thing, but had Noesen been playing in another league, it’s likely any suspension would have been shorter.
This series of circumstances now costs a young player an opportunity he’s been working for over the last few years. Participation in the World Juniors would not only be a great experience in itself, but there are many developmental advantages to playing in the tournament, too. Now Noesen doesn’t get the chance because of a split-second decision.
It’s certainly unfortunate for the team, but more so for the player. The hit warranted a suspension, but it probably didn’t warrant costing Noesen his shot at the World Juniors.