Bounty hunter

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

The only time Flint Generals coach Robbie Nichols had actually seen a bounty placed on a hockey player's head was in the movie Slap Shot.

But yesterday, his United Hockey League rival coach Steve Shannon was suspended for the rest of the reason for offering his Motor City Mechanics $200 to take out Nichols' player Kevin Kerr in a Feb. 2 game against Flint. Kerr had criticized locked-out National Hockey Leaguers Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper for joining the Mechanics the day before and taking work from players in a minor league who make less than $1,000 a week.

UHL commissioner Richard Brosal said Shannon never admitted to offering the money, but a league investigation found that he placed the bounty.

"I don't care if it was $5." Brosal told the Associated Press. "You do not put a bounty on another player's head."

FUTURE UNCERTAIN

He added that Shannon's status for 2005 remains undetermined. Nichols said Kerr and the Generals were unaware he was playing under threat of a bounty the night in question.

"Nothing happened in the game that we could see," Nichols said. "When I heard about it much later, I went right back and looked at tapes. Kevin hurt his elbow in that game, but that's because he missed the guy he was trying to hit."

The suspension comes in the wake of a Denver-based lawsuit brought by Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore against Todd Bertuzzi, Brad May and members of the Vancouver Canucks' organization stemming from a game last spring. Moore, who suffered a broken neck, concussion and facial injuries, alleges there was "an unlawful plan" by the Canucks and mentions a bounty by May in retaliation for Moore's hit on Canucks Markus Naslund in a previous game.

"It's unfortunate for me personally," Shannon said. "The findings I don't agree with, but I understand how they (the UHL) came to their conclusion."

In addition, assistant coach John Blum was suspended for 10 games.

"It's good to know that we have someone who is genuinely looking out for the welfare of the players on and off the ice and to protect the integrity of our league," Kerr said. "On a personal and professional level, I support the decision the UHL had to make on this unfortunate situation. I was speaking for a lot of people who maybe didn't have the courage or weren't able to stand up and speak their minds."

Nichols also backed the UHL.

"Coaches say lots of silly things in passing, but we don't condone anything of that type," he said. "I think it's great NHLers are here. That's the step a lot of us want to make as players and coaches."

Chelios, Hatcher and Draper, all of the Detroit Red Wings, were recently joined on the Mechanics by teammate Jason Woolley. Shannon, a 54-year-old ex Detroit policeman, will miss the final 24 games played by the last-place Mechanics.

"We regret that Steve has been suspended, but we back the league's decision," Mechanics president John Tull said.


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