League cracks down on 'sideshow'

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

OHL commissioner David Branch says the Western Conference final "has become a sideshow."

Branch took steps yesterday he hopes will bring some order to the series between the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers -- suspending Knights forward Josh Beaulieu five games, fining Rangers coach-GM Peter DeBoer $5,000 and his team $1,000, and fining the Knights $2,000.

Branch also spoke with the general managers about the verbal war being conducted by the teams and, more specifically, the head coaches.

"All it is intended to do is move the spotlight away from what's happening on the ice," Branch said of the sparring between Knights coach Dale Hunter and DeBoer. "It has become a sideshow and is not serving the league or the individuals involved any purpose."

Beaulieu was suspended five games for a a cross-check to the back of the head of Kevin Henderson while the Rangers forward lay on his stomach late in Game 2 Saturday.

It went uncalled by referee Terry Hobor but Branch, working in the OHL "war room" that night, saw the incident on the TV feed.

"We have made it clear that blows to the head will not be tolerated," Branch said.

DeBoer was fined for ripping Hobor's work that night.

During the postgame media conference, DeBoer had said: "It's tough enough beating the London Knights, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, without having to beat the refereeing, too."

He also used "incompetency" and "embarrassing" in describing the officiating.

The two teams were fined for a verbal interaction with 35 seconds left in the game.

Branch identified Knights forward Corey Perry, who received a misconduct, Knights trainer Don Brankley and Rangers forward David Clarkson as the principals.

The Knights had complained to the league that Kitchener's Adam Keefe slew-footed Dylan Hunter in Game 2 but referee-in-chief Ted Baker said there will be no review as the league saw a slew-foot by London's Brandon Prust on Clarkson in Game 1 that wasn't called.

Baker said no supplemental discipline was issued to Prust.

Knights GM Mark Hunter wouldn't argue with Beaulieu's suspension, only the length.

"It was a blow to the head . . . and I have to respect the league decision," he said. "Am I happy about the length? No. From the standpoint that Josh is not a repeat offender, I wish it was a little bit shorter.

"What he did wasn't right, but I thought he would get three games or two games."

DeBoer said he expected the fine but never thought he'd be suspended as coaches rarely are for verbal outbursts.


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