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Last updated: Tue. Apr. 24, 2012 - 05:32 am EDT

CHL's disciplinary review takes time, resources

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For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

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Most days during the spring, Jim Wiley doesn't know how well his day is going to go until 1 p.m.

That's the deadline Central Hockey League teams have to submit requests for reviews to the league's director of hockey operations. If there's a game that night involving the player under review, Wiley's afternoon can get pretty crazy as he tries to get enough time, input and information to make a decision by game time.

Wiley decided it would be best if he did not comment for this story during the middle of the playoffs, but CHL Commissioner Duane Lewis was the league's dean of discipline for 10 years and agreed to detail what happens when a request is made.

``It's not a fun job,'' Lewis said. ``It's something where you get beat up on because everybody is trying to give you their opinion, and they all have a stake in the outcome. You often feel like you've gone 10 rounds with Tyson.''

The process starts when a coach, team official or referee submits a request for Wiley to check an incident such as Player 5 from X team hit Player 6 from Y team at 2:56 of the second period. Any major penalty called by a referee, aside from fighting majors, is also automatically reviewed.

Wiley informs the team of the offending player that a review has been asked for.

Then Wiley begins compiling all the video information of the play. Sometimes that is as limited as the CHL TV feed, and sometimes there's other news footage. The video can be of varying quality depending on the lighting and placement of the cameras.

Wiley will forward the videos to the supervisor of officials who was at the game; Lewis; Referee-in-Chief Bryan Lewis, who is a former longtime NHL official and director of officiating; Senior Supervisor of Officials Leon Stickle; and Manager of Hockey Administration Todd Bisson. If a play is unclear, it may also get sent to officials from other leagues for their opinion

``It's nice to have opinions from guys who have played the game, coached the game or refereed the game,'' Duane Lewis said. ``You try to get all the angles you can from different people. Everybody has a different way of looking at things.''

After all the input and many discussions, Wiley makes the decision. He then contacts the teams and says Player 5 is getting suspended for this length of time and explains the reason. Teams receive a full written explanation from the league.

The length of discipline can depend on many factors, including: Was the action intentional or incidental? What was the timeframe in the game? What was the score separation? Is the player a repeat offender? Was the player who was hit injured and what was the extent of the injury? Was it a retaliation from a previous incident?

The league also has a library of past suspensions and incidents to refer to in terms of length of suspensions.

Sometimes when there is a significant foul, the offending player and his coach will go through a hearing by phone with league officials.

There is a minimal fee for teams to submit requests for reviews, but the money is refunded if the review results in disciplinary action, including a warning letter issued to a player.

If the suspension is for 20 games or more, the Professional Hockey Players Association also becomes involved and adds input.

If the offending player or team disagrees with Wiley's ruling, they can appeal the suspension to a five-person CHL committee made up of two team owners, two general managers and a supervisor of officials who works with many leagues. There is a fee involved to start this process also.

Previously, the commissioner would hear the appeals, but that often meant he had to rule on the actions of his director of hockey operations. A separate committee seemed to be the fairest option for all involved. Some leagues have all members of their board of governors hear an appeal.

That process starts with a teleconference where Wiley informs the committee of his decision and how he made it. Committee members are presented with all the relevant materials, including videos. Then a representative of the team is allowed to tell their side of the incident. The committee then meets on a separate teleconference to discuss the situation and make a ruling.

The committee can reduce the suspension, keep the original length or expand it. When Rapid City appealed the one-game suspension to Les Reaney for hitting Komets defenseman Jamie Milam, it was only the second time this season the committee was needed.

``It's rarely used, but it's there as a tool of the fair process, especially during the playoffs, when it's crucial,'' Lewis said. ``People may not like the decision on the other end of it. We had one last year that was altered by the group. We want to be able to say our decision is right every single time, but that's not possible.''

Even then, there could be hard feelings and more questions about the process. In the age of instant video, many fans make up their minds before the process even begins.

``It's not a dartboard in a room,'' Lewis said. ``It's a fair process where Jim is given every tool to make the decision. It takes a certain type of individual to do it because you have to remain calm and be completely and utterly knowledgeable about the rules of hockey.''

It's not a job where people last a long time. The job of scrutinizing everything that happens on the ice is always under scrutiny itself, and the director has to be dispassionate when everyone else is sometimes at their most emotional.

``There's a lot of guys who have done it for a certain amount of time and then say that's it,'' Lewis said. ``You have to change out. Not a lot of people like to have a job where nobody likes them.

``I told Jim when he took this job, `You know you did your job right when both teams are upset with you. If one says it's too much and the other says it's too little, you were probably bang on.' ‘'

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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