Disappointment is the only feeling the Penticton Vees have over the Logan Johnston/Cody Michelle situation.
It begins with Michelle and ends with their captain, especially because their appeal failed and added five games to Johnston’s initial 20-game suspension. Johnston broke Michelle’s jaw with a cross-check during the Vees game with the Coquitlam Express on Sept. 17.
“We would be lying if we weren’t a little shocked,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “Right now our organization has sent an inquiry on how the process took place as far as how they came about the decision to raise the amount of games. There have been a few other questions that have been raised in the process from different outside sources.”
The Vees want to know how the appeal committee was set up. At the moment though, their concern is supporting Johnston.
“Our organization wishes Cody Michelle the best of luck in his recovery, which I took the time to meet with him and express that,” said Harbinson.
While Dave Sales, executive director for the BCHL, makes decisions on discipline and normally doesn’t make comment, he did on this situation, except when it came to the additional five games.
“I can’t really comment on that,” he said. “What happens is our appeals committee is separate from our league. They are third party. All ex-police officers, retired police officers and they have been with our league since 2004. How our procedure works is any suspension over three games or a fine of over $750 can be sent to the appeals committee. Once I have gone through and made my decision, I provide them with all the information that I used to come to that decision. The information that is supplied by team, whatever they supply in their appeal, goes directly to them. Why they made that decision, Penticton received their report. It has happened in the past (with a player having his suspension extended.)”
Sales said the reason he initially handed Johnston his lengthy suspension is because of the extent of the injury to Michelle.
“A 20-game suspension levied by us is one of our largest suspensions ever,” he said. “The incident itself was severe. We just can’t have it. It’s certainly not a decision that I came to lightly and certainly not one I want to do. Logan Johnston has been in our league for a number of years and I understand what his goals and aspirations are. On the flip side, we also understand we need to protect our players.”
Sales was able to make his decision based on information given by the officials. Sales said once he provides the information, he doesn’t have any contact with them.
When the Vees filed the appeal, Harbinson understood nothing like this has been done. With the wording of the appeal, he understood if the suspension was to increase it would be from Coquitlam appealing that the suspension wasn’t long enough.
“Talking with a lot of different people of different sources, no one can come up with a time in any sport where or any business where somebody has appealed a decision and ended up with a stiffer penalty,” he said. “That is something we are looking into right now. There is no further appeal process but we have been asked from outside sources to look into how, what process the appeal committee went through.
“There was a reason we named him captain,” said Harbinson. “I don’t believe Logan is a malicious young man. I think he’s a young man that plays hard for his team and not for himself. We’re very confident when the dust settles, he’ll be a big part of our team again.”
As the Vees try to shift their focus to the ice, they made a deal to bolster their roster. Earlier this week the Vees acquired 20-year-old defenceman Nick Buchanen from the Victoria Grizzlies for forward Mike Moran. Buchanen will play in the home opener against the Prince George Spruce Kings today. Now Harbinson wants to see his team get off on the right foot in the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“We’re hopeful that people come out and support the team,” said Harbinson. “We have had a tough month. We need to come out and play with energy and if we have a good crowd that will help us do that.”
While the Vees will miss Johnston, Curtis Loik will make his debut on Friday. The grit factor is something the coaching staff has pushed with its players. They will to play tough against the Spruce Kings, a team with size on defence.
“I think we have enough skill and great speed and we have a good size team,” said Harbinson. “We need to use our size. I have a feeling we will come out guns blazing on Friday.”
Saturday the Vees host St. Denis’ former team, the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“I’m pretty pumped to play them,” said St. Denis, who scored scored 62 goals and 137 points in 149 games. “I know a few buddies on the team there, so definitely really excited.”
Adding to the excitement for St. Denis will be having his parents making the trip from Trail.
Puck drop for both games is 7 p.m.