Canadian ball hockey player Justin Pender could be waiting a while to find out just how long his suspension from international ball hockey will be.
On Tuesday, International Street and Ball Hockey Federation president George Gortsos told the Telegram that the organization’s disciplinary committee should have a final decision in “a week or two.”
“This is a rare thing,” says Gortsos, also executive director of the Canadian Ball Hockey Association and a former national men’s team coach.
“I couldn’t even speculate (the length), because I don’t think we have a precedent.”
“There are people on the board (of directors) who were watching. I’m pretty sure when we get a decision from the committee, nobody’s going to contest it.”
With the Czech Republic leading Canada 5-1 with 1.3 seconds to play in their semifinal, Pender and Jan Bacovsky, who had just scored an empty net goal, met near the faceoff circle, where the St. John’s native took exception to something the Czech player said. Eventually, the situation boils over with Pender chasing Bacovsky to the opposite end of the rink throwing punches along the way as a referee tries to intervene.
After the three fall near the Czech net, goalie Lukas Heczko dives over his teammates to protect him, at which point Pender tries to remove the goaltender while the second referee, Marek Kralovic of Slovakia, tries to intervene. In the end, Pender is pulled off by his teammate, leaving Kralovic and Heczko on the floor with apparent injuries.
“I was there, but I did not see it,” says Gortsos, who hasn’t seen a fan video drawing much attention on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=eT4naBLJUKg).
“When they called me out, it was already done.”
Gortsos says he went directly to the injured referee and travelled with him to hospital where he was treated for a knee injury. By Sunday evening, Gortsos says Kralovic was walking without the aid of crutches.
Heczko went on to play in Sunday’s championship game, a 2-1 loss to Slovakia.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Canadian Ball Hockey Association said it doesn’t condone Pender’s actions and will be issuing formal apologies “to the Czech team as well as the president and board of the Czech Association.”
In addition to any disciplinary action from the ISBHF, Pender — who has been suspended indefinitely as he awaits the federation’s decision — will also be subject to a disciplinary hearing with the CBHA.
Despite the negative attention the sport is receiving, Gortsos isn’t overly concerned with how the incident may affect public perception of the game.
“This was an isolated incident. Internationally, it’s something that doesn’t happen in our sport. It’s not like the NHL or professional hockey leagues. We don’t have these kinds of incidents.”