Controversy prompts review of Giants v Steelers game

Belfast's Spiro Goulakos was knocked to the ice by Sheffield's Colton Fretter. Credit: Dean Woolley

Controversial disciplinary rulings in the wake of the Belfast Giants’ last game against the Sheffield Steelers have led to an external review.

The Elite League board has said in a statement that the “unprecedented” move has been made to review the decision of the Department of Player Safety.

The Giants played the Steelers in Sheffield on Sunday, coming from two goals down to win 4-3.

However, the result has since been marred by controversy over on-ice incidents and the subsequent disciplinary action taken.

DOPS reviewed two checks from behind by Giants defenceman Spiro Goulakos, one of which – on Steelers player Colton Fretter - was not called by referee Mick Hicks during the game.

They also looked at an alleged kick by Goulakos on Fretter.

Goulakos was banned for three games as a result.

Fretter had responded during the game, in the wake of the check not called, by chasing down Goulakos and appearing to punch him with both hands in the back of the head.

It was then, when Goulakos was knocked to the ice, that he was deemed to have kicked Fretter with his skate.

While the Giants organisation and fan base has expressed concern over the retaliatory nature of Fretter’s actions and the concussion sustained by Goualkos, Fretter was banned for just one game.

DOPS amended the check from behind which was called against Fretter to a charging penalty.

It carries an automatic one-game suspension and no decision was taken to add further games – an option available to DOPS depending on the severity of an incident or any aggravating factors.

The decision sparked uproar, with players past and present from across the league speaking out on social media over concerns for player safety.

Some Steelers fans countered that, claiming the checks by Goulakos had prompted Fretter’s actions.

Others felt that both players had gotten off lightly.

According to the Elite League, the board has now asked for assistance from “an outside body that currently look after player safety for another top level professional league”.

A statement concluded: “No further statement will be made by the EIHL until after the review process has been completed and the results published.”