Reporting Bill Hudson
WINONA, Minn. (WCCO) – Ten players were ejected from a high school hockey game in Winona Thursday night as a result of a brawl that started after a player was checked from behind.
The Owatonna and Winona boys hockey teams were playing in a Big Nine Conference match-up in Winona Thursday when the brawl happened.
In the second period, Winona’s Ryan Grant was playing the puck behind the goalie when he turned his back to an Owatonna player coming at him. That player, Matt Ritter, then checked Grant from behind into the glass.
The hit didn’t appear to be malicious or intentional, but it was similar to a hit that now has Benilde-St. Margaret’s sophomore Jack Jablonski paralyzed after being checked from behind in a game last week.
“You hate to have these incidents, but it shows how dangerous it is to be checked from behind,” said Kate Mannor, president of the Winona Youth Hockey Association.
After Grant was hit, he immediately got up, tackled Ritter and started throwing punches at him. A brawl ensued between the two teams, and 10 players were ejected. From the video, it’s difficult to tell who threw punches in the melee, causing officials to eject everyone involved from the game.
“He definitely thought it was a cheap shot and illegal, but he was also upset for retaliating in the fashion that he did,” said Eric Lear, who did color commentary for the game with HBC-TV in Winona.
“It was pretty stupid by that player to think he can do that. But you know, bad play, bad decision by both teams,” Grant said.
Checking from behind has come to the forefront of the hockey world following Jablonski’s paralyzing hit. There was even a moment of silence before Thursday’s game to honor Jablonski. Emotions have clearly been running high since that incident last Friday.
“Two weeks ago our guys don’t react that way, but with what happened to the skater in the cities being paralyzed I think it was just an overreaction to what the situation was,” said Winona hockey coach Fran McDevitt.
Per Minnesota State High School League rules, all 10 players involved in the brawl will be suspended for one game.