Ban on Giants player reduced amid controversy

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

The head of the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety has been axed after a review of controversial rulings on the Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers game.

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.

The uproar, including criticism from past and present players across the league and negative headlines around the world, resulted in the EIHL asking for an independent review.

On Friday, the league outlined that former NHL linesman Lyle Seitz and members of the global Player Safety Committee were consulted.

Based on their findings, the three-game ban handed to Goulakos has been reduced to two games.

One 5+game penalty for checking from behind has been removed from his record as it was found that Goulakos’ hit on Fretter was a legal hockey play.

The review found that Goulakos only hit his opponent from behind due to Fretter skating backwards out of his d-zone into the neutral zone.

The “kick” by Goulakos was deemed “careless” rather than intentional, with consideration given for possible disorientation through concussion and an attempt to defend himself from further attack.

Fretter’s one-game ban has been increased to six games.

Reasons for the increase included the “wilful” nature of the incident, contact with the head and neck, distance travelled, and injury caused.

The EIHL has confirmed that Lyle Seitz, along with the PSC, will look at incidents to assist in the interim until the EIHL holds an emergency meeting on DOPS and refereeing on 8 November.