As the Eagles get ready to take on the Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre later this evening, they will do so without defenseman Nick Beck, forced to sit this game out following the events of Sunday's 8-2 loss at the hands of the Nanaimo Clippers.
To read the cause of Beck's suspension, it's hard not to assume the worst and wonder why the suspension isn't longer than just a game. Having watched the incident unfold live, and discussed its particulars with both the coaching staff as well as the players involved, I can tell you it is not nearly as bad as it sounds -- or perhaps as it looked to the furious fans in Nanaimo.
The incident in question took place 9 minutes into the first period of Sunday's action, as the Eagles battled hard through their best opening 20mins of the weekend. Less than halfway through the opening frame, however, there was a serious altercation in front of the Surrey bench that saw a pair of Eagles -- Beck, as well as newly-acquired forward Spencer Meyer -- ejected from the game.
The incident involved Clippers defenseman Edwin Hookensen, who was being pinned against the boards by Beck in front of the Surrey bench after the puck had been shot into the benches and out of play. While held into the wall, Hookensen threw a gloved punch into the bench, right into the face of Eagles captain Chase McMurphy.
Taking offense to the way his captain had just been treated, Meyer -- on the bench right next to McMurphy -- decided to throw a retaliatory punch right back into the face of Hookensen.
While this is happening, one of the referees attempted to defuse the escalating situation by relieving the pressure that was pinning Hookensen into the eye of the hurricane. He grabbed Beck by the shoulder and started pulling him backwards.
At this point, I need to make something clear: Nick Beck barely played a lick of hockey last season as a result of a terrible knee injury, the recovery for which took almost a full year. As Beck was being pulled from the scrum, he started to feel like he was about to fall -- and not just fall, but fall to the ice at an awkward angle that would twist his bad knee in a terrible manner.
Terrified that he was about to blow out his knee once again and see his Junior A career come to an early end, Beck reacted instinctively and tried simply to shake the hand pulling him backwards to prevent the fall. In doing so, unfortunately, he wound up planting an elbow right into the face of the official, sending him tumbling to the ice and inspiring a near riotous level of rage from the Clippers crowd.
Beck was ejected from the game, as was Meyer. For his gloved punch to the face of McMurphy, Hookensen received no penalty, and went on to be named First Star of the Game.
The referee understood the nature of the incident, and its complete and utter lack of maliciousness. There are no hard feelings there, and the official didn't want to throw the book at the kid. But a match penalty for abuse of an official is what it is, and Nick Beck faces a mandatory one game suspension as a result. It's hard not to empathize with him over the nature of the incident.
So if you're wondering why Beck isn't in the line-up this evening, that's why.