Saskatoon

Sask. junior hockey player suspended 25 games for hit that hospitalized goaltender

Yorkton Terriers forward Greg Mulhall has been suspended 25 games for a hit in a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game Saturday night that knocked out Melville Millionaires goaltender Berk Berkeliev.

Illegal hit that knocked out and bloodied goalie is 1st test for league's new discipline committee

The Melville Millionaires tweeted this image of the blood-stained jersey of goaltender Berk Berkeliev in the hours following a game Saturday night that saw him knocked out on an illegal hit. (Melville Millionaires/Twitter)

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has handed down the longest suspension given to one of its players in recent memory.

Yorkton Terriers forward Greg Mulhall has been suspended 25 games for bowling over Melville Millionaires' goaltender Berk Berkeliev in a game between the long-time rival teams Saturday night in Melville.

Video of the incident showed the two players racing from opposite directions for a loose puck in the Melville zone before Mulhall lowered his shoulder and knocked Berkeliev flat on his back, sending the goaltender's helmet flying in the process.

Berkeliev, who grew up playing hockey in Calgary, appeared to lie motionless on the ice while players from both teams began scuffling around him.

Millionaires head coach and general manager Kyle Adams said Berkeliev was knocked out and suffered a concussion, a cut in his upper lip that required eight to 10 stitches, another cut on the back of his head that required five stitches and some missing teeth.

"With him being knocked out and blood everywhere, the optics didn't look good or help the players or even myself and the coaching staff," Adams said. "We were all pretty shaken up."

Mulhall, a product of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., received a match penalty for attempt to injure on the play.

"You know, it was one of the dirtiest plays in hockey I've ever seen in all my years of playing and coaching," Adams said.

Berkeliev was hospitalized that night but released the following morning.

Adams said the player was scheduled to undergo a CT scan of his brain Monday because of the concussion symptoms.

He said Berkeliev is "pretty banged up" and his whole body is sore, but he said his goaltender "sounded good" and his "spirits were high" when the two spoke Monday morning. 

Adams said he was satisfied with the 25-game suspension, but was hoping it was going to be even longer.

"To me, that was the minimum that he should have got," he said. "So I am pleased that this league did step forward and put a harsh suspension on the player."

Adams said a new league discipline committee that the SJHL introduced in the off-season has done a "real good job" with suspensions so far.

"I think it just makes things clearer when there's three opinions instead of one," he said. "And I think the percentage of getting the call right is greater with the three-person committee."

According to SJHL President Bill Chow, who dealt with suspensions on his own prior to this season, the committee is made up of two people with officiating backgrounds and a third person with an extensive hockey background in Saskatchewan.

Chow said it was the committee that decided on the length of this suspension and it determined this wasn't a hockey play.

"He made no intention to play the puck," he said. "He went strictly to play the body. And you got a goalie that's in a vulnerable position."

Chow said it's the longest suspension that has been handed out in the SJHL during his nine years as president.

"As for previous to that, I don't know," he said. "But I don't believe there's been one that long for quite a while."

Adams said Berkeliev had played his way to being the Millionaires' starting goaltender this season after being the team's backup goalie last year.

"We just hope it doesn't put him back very long, because this could shake him up for the rest of the year," he said.

Adams said there was currently no timetable for when Berkeliev might resume playing.

About the Author

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

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