The opening night of AHL games left a sour taste in the mouth for me.
There was some exciting hockey for sure but one incident in Rochester left me sick to the pit of my stomach.
It was the Rochester Americans home opener, as the Amerks entertained their new divisional rivals, Adirondack Flames.
The game was done and dusted as a contest, with the home side up 5-1 with three minutes to play, until Trevor Gillies decided to leave his mark in an unsavoury manner.
While things were getting heated in the corner as two men dropped the gloves, Adirondack’s Gillies grabbed a hold of Rochester’s left winger William Carrier.
Not heard of him before? That’s because he was playing his first game in the AHL. His first professional game ever in fact.
Being a smart kid, Carrier refused to fight despite haymakers being thrown at him and instead protected his head and face with his arms.
Gillies response was to grab hold of the young man’s head and spike it into the ice as hard as he could and try and throw a couple of punches with Carrier down on the ice before he was pulled away.
Gillies is not a small man (6-foot-3, 231 pounds) and has previous for these kind of antics.
In almost 400 AHL games, he’s racked up over 1500 penalty minutes and if you add in his total professional games, that number rises to over 50 hours of PIM.
Fortunately the young man he assaulted was ok on this occasion and was able to laugh and joke with reporters after the game. Incredibly the on-ice officials refused to give Gillies a match penalty for the offense but instead ejected him for being the aggressor in a fight.
Rochester scored on the resulting two man power play but that wasn’t an end to things as the home side looked to send a message back to their visitors. From the opening face-off a line brawl ensued with Rochester’s player taking things into their own hands as defenseman Petrecki took the centreman position in order to “send a message.”
Rochester’s head coach Cassidy confirmed that Petrecki went on the ice of his own accord but did not condone his players action, insisting that’s a team mate looking after a team mate.
The AHL is a development league first and foremost, and do we really need to witness the actions of thugs like Gillies on young rookies like this? Imagine if the young man had suffered a terrible injury.
I imagine the call to ban Gillies would be heard loud and clear across North American then.
The AHL has a responsibility to protect the young guys coming into this league without mollycoddling them and this action by a veteran, who should know better, oversteps the acceptable boundary by a long way it‘s not even conceivable.
In black and white terms, this is one professional acting toward another and if Gillies has this much disdain and ignorance towards his contemporaries then the punishment needs to be as harsh.
Who is to say that next time the outcome won’t cost the victim his career or perhaps something a whole lot more important.
Link to a video of the incident is below.
***Update*** Trevor Gillies was given an extra 12 game suspension on top of the mandatory one game. I’m not sure what message that is sending when it’s just three games extra than his last assault on a fellow professional. He may have apologised profusely after the event which is all well and good but people would not be taking that into the account if Carrier was in hospital right now. I’m disappointed in the AHL and I pray that for the sake of the league and other professionals that there are no other incidents moving forward. At some point, hockey has to make this man culpable for his actions.