For hitting referee Kerry Fraser in the foot with a thrown stick, the Kings’ Tom Webster has been hit with the biggest suspension ever handed an NHL coach.
Webster was suspended for 12 games, effective immediately, by league officials Wednesday, and the Kings were fined $10,000.
Webster threw his tantrum--and the hockey stick--Nov. 16 in a game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Forum. Upset when he thought Fraser had failed to make a proper call, Webster hurled the stick from the bench. It hit the ice and grazed one of Fraser’s skates.
“In handing down this decision, the league wishes to make it clear that there can be no excuse for taking physical actions against any official,” NHL Vice President Brian O’Neill said in a prepared statement.
Although he refused to comment to reporters Wednesday, Webster was said to have expressed remorse for his action, his second stick-throwing incident in as many seasons, in a hearing with O’Neill.
The controversy began when King defenseman Larry Robinson and Detroit’s Vladimir Konstantinov clashed near the end boards. Fraser called cross-checking penalties on both of them, but only Robinson’s penalty was initially announced.
Infuriated at what he saw as one-sided treatment, Webster snapped.
He was ejected from the game, his first ejection this season after having been thrown out of three games last season, once for verbally abusing an official, once for exchanging punches with the Calgary Flames’ Doug Gilmour and once for throwing a hockey stick. For the Gilmour fight, Webster was suspended for four games, two of them during the playoffs.
League officials made it clear that they had considered Webster’s record in making their ruling.
Under orders by King General Manager Rogie Vachon, Webster will stay away from the team until his suspension expires Dec. 31. Assistant coaches Cap Raeder and Rick Wilson will run the club.
“Tommy agrees with me that, for the benefit of the team, he will stay in the background and let the (assistants) run the whole show,” Vachon said. “Tommy will go to Phoenix to watch our farm team and do different things.
“Tommy is the one who feels the worst about it. We need him behind the bench, where he’s at his best. To miss a coach for 12 games, that’s a long time. . . . It’s going to be a long month.”