The root cause of Saturday’s brawl between the St. Francis Xavier and Acadia men’s hockey teams became a little clearer on Monday.
St. Francis Xavier University released statements from X-Men forward Sam Studnicka and head coach Brad Peddle which suggested that Studnicka was a target of a derogatory comment related to a sexual assault survivor.
It was this comment, the statement reads, that instigated the third-period brawl at Acadia Arena which garnered national headlines and was a trending topic on social media.
There was no explanation in the statement of Studnicka’s connection to the unnamed sexual assault survivor.
“Over the course of my three-year AUS career, I have been challenged in dealing with insulting and derogatory comments on the ice pertaining to the shaming of a sexual assault survivor,” Studnicka said in the statement. “It has taken an emotional toll on me, and it has been frustrating that one AUS hockey program in particular has elicited repeated on-ice comments directed towards me.
“Another comment was made during the third period of Saturday night’s game, which was addressed by my head coach to the on-ice officials and to the opposing team’s head coach. I was completely shocked when, minutes later, I was on the ice and the offending athlete (who made the comment) was sent to take the face-off against me.”
“There is no place for such comments within our society,” the statement reads. “Sexual assault is a very serious issue and there is simply no place for shaming sexual assault survivors, ever.
“There is no place for such comments within our society." — statement from X-Men forward Sam Studnicka
“I am proud of the way my teammates stood up for me and for something bigger than hockey. This event shows that more education is still needed on this issue. It is a serious societal issue and we need more awareness and education on all levels so young men are aware of the implications of their words and actions.”
Acadia athletic director Kevin Dickie did not return a phone and text message asking for a comment on Monday. Axemen head coach Darren Burns did not respond to a text message.
However, later Monday evening, Acadia University issued its own statement regarding the matter.
“Yesterday, we began an investigation regarding the validity of insinuations being made about this incident,” the Acadia statement read. “We have been in contact with the AUS office throughout the day today, and the information we have gathered is not consistent with the allegations contained in the statements made this evening publicly by St. F.X.
“We are also participating in the review being conducted by AUS of events that occurred at the Acadia bench at 9:05 of the game’s third period. Acadia considers the on and off ice behavior that occurred at that time unacceptable on numerous levels and will be cooperating fully with the AUS investigation.”
An altercation broke out during a face-off after an Axemen goal 9:05 into the third period. A line brawl ensued shortly thereafter in front of the Acadia bench, with players from both teams leaving their benches to join in the melee. Videos of the brawl were shared on social media.
Once the dust settled, officials dished out 284 penalty minutes, including 159 to the X-Men during that stoppage of play. Eleven players, as well as Burns and Peddle, received game misconducts.
In one of the videos, Peddle can be heard screaming at one of the Acadia coaches: “You get control of it. This doesn’t happen. This does not happen.”
Peddle said in the St. F.X. statement that “the incident was very avoidable based upon our repeated discussions about the situation.”
“Supporting Sam has always been the top priority,” Peddle said in the statement. “In this specific instance, our team took a stand to protect him from repeated, unnecessary insults that have no place in sport or the greater society.”
The fallout from the brawl could have serious repercussions, in regards to suspensions, for both teams heading into the final week of the regular season.
Several suspensions are expected to be handed out by Atlantic University Sport. AUS executive director Phil Currie said some of those suspensions could be announced as early as Tuesday.
The Axemen have a road game Wednesday evening against the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
"It’s important that we send a strong message on this incident so that we don’t see it again in the playoffs." — AUS executive director Phil Currie
“There’s a fair amount to unpack on this one,” Currie said in an interview on Monday. “It’s taking a little longer than it normally would but we are conscious of our window with Acadia playing on Wednesday night.
“There’s a long list. Some of them are your regular hockey type of sanctions which receive automatic (suspensions). Jumping over the boards (to join a fracas) gets you two games; you’re ejected and gone for another game. We’re processing those first. It might take a little longer on some of the other pieces. We want to clear the decks as much as we can out of the respect that Acadia plays Wednesday night.”
There’s a strong possibility that Acadia and St. F.X. could face each other in the first round of the playoffs.
The X-Men (15-10-3) hold down third place in the AUS standings with two games remaining in the regular season. The Axemen (9-16-3) are guaranteed to finish in sixth.
The UNB Reds and SMU have already secured quarter-final byes. The third-place team would play No. 6 in the best-of-three quarter-finals, which begin sometime next week.
“It’s important that we send a strong message on this incident so that we don’t see it again in the playoffs,” Currie said of the brawl. “Hopefully, knock on wood, we can get through the playoffs relatively clean.
“Any time (a brawl) like this happens, it’s not a great thing at all. Luckily we have processes in place to be able to address this quickly and appropriately. We will see common household sanctions and then we will see more severe sanctions as we unwrap this.”