UFA, Russia - The International Ice Hockey Federation's disciplinary committee took the unusual step of publicly defending its four-game suspension to Canadian defenceman Griffin Reinhart at the world junior championship, saying the player swung his stick at a U.S. player's head with intent to injure.
Former NHL referee Dan Marouelli, a Canadian, and Jeff Sauer of the U.S., assessed Reinhart the suspension Friday. The defenceman did not play in his team's 6-5 loss to Russia in Saturday's bronze-medal game.
Reinhart must serve the remainder of the punishment at his next IIHF event, which could be the 2014 world junior championship because he's eligible to play for Canada again in Malmo, Sweden.
Reinhart was given a high-sticking minor in a semifinal game against the U.S. when he hit Vince Trocheck in the head with his stick. Trocheck was not injured.
The IIHF reviewed the play and handed out one of the longest suspensions ever at the world junior championship. Hockey Canada has said it will appeal.
Marouelli and Sauer appeared at an IIHF news conference Saturday armed with video to explain the severity of the suspension.
"In our opinion, he deliberately struck the U.S. player on the side of the head with his stick," Marouelli said. "We deem this to be a careless and reckless act and we are in charge of the player's safety for all players."
Reinhart had told reporters that as he lost his balance, his stick rode up Trocheck's stick and made accidental contact to the head.
Marouelli pointed to the video replay, saying Reinhart had eye contact with Trocheck as he swung his stick with two hands.
The IIHF contended the players' sticks didn't make contact ??? and thus Reinhart's stick wasn't deflected upward to his opponent's head ??? but the video didn't prove that conclusively.
"Would it have made a difference? Possibly if the sticks collided . . . . but the determining factor for me is eye contact. He never loses the eye of his opponent and the deliberation of his act, the way he was careless with that stick," Marouelli said. "You can paint it any way you want. He struck him in the face and it wasn't an accident."
Marouelli also said referees Didier Massey, who also worked the gold-medal game, and Mikael Sjoqvist erred in not giving Reinhart a match penalty.
IIHF president Rene Fasel said his organization will now follow the lead of the NHL, which provides video explanations by vice-president of hockey Brendan Shanahan on why a player is served supplementary discipline.
"It's not our habit to do so," Fasel said. "We expect that people will understand, but I think in the future if there is a very tight decision or difficult decision, we should give the world of hockey the explanation why. Player safety is key for us.
"I think here the decision was right."