SAULT STE. MARIE -- Soo Greyhounds head coach Craig Hartsburg doesn't think he did anything wrong by throwing a puck into the John Labatt Centre crowd Friday night and blames his two-game suspension on the London Knights.
The Stratford native and gold medal-winning Canadian world junior coach, who served the first of his two-game sit out last night in Game 3 of the OHL Western Conference semifinal against the Knights, disputed London GM Mark Hunter's claim that his actions were "childish" and expressed his dismay at the OHL's decision to ban him for the 'Hounds two home games at the Steelback Centre.
"This is ridiculous, it's crap. I'm very disappointed in the OHL," Hartsburg said. "The London Knights wanted that puck, I took their puck and they're offended. They whined and squawked and complained loud enough and London gets what it wants."
London head coach Dale Hunter reiterated his belief yesterday that Hartsburg has no one to blame but himself and detected some on-going gamesmanship from a fellow long-time NHLer. The pair screamed at each other as they walked off the JLC on ice on Friday night.
"It was his actions that caused his suspension and you have to own up to it," Dale Hunter said. "It wasn't anything we did. He's just using it to motivate his players. That's all he's doing now."
Hartsburg has long suspected that London gets the benefit of officiating decisions at the JLC and viewed his suspension as another case of the Knights being looked upon as favoured sons by the OHL brass in Toronto.
"This is all about the London Knights," Hartsburg continued.
"Our organization is very upset. We try to do what's right for our fans and the OHL. This did not have to happen."
Dale Hunter didn't believe the loss of Hartsburg behind the bench would hurt the 'Hounds to the point where it would be the difference between a win or loss.
"Denny Lambert coached them when Hartsburg was gone the last two years at world juniors and he had an over .500 record -- well over .500," Hunter said.
"It's the same thing that Dave (Gagner), Mark (Hunter) and Todd (Bidner) did when I was suspended. The team still won. That's what good teams do. They find a way."
Heading into Game 3, London knew it had to prepare for the most hostile environment it had played in all season, but the Knights downplayed the effect on their game. London finished with a 29-5 road record -- the best in OHL history.
-- and won in Owen Sound twice in the first round against a team they consider bigger rivals than the Greyhounds.
"We have veterans who have been through it before and that's important to have when there's a lot of energy in the rink," Hunter said. "You have to get used to that kind of stuff because you're going to see that at the next level all the time."