Sunday’s game between the Michigan Gray Wolves and the Washington Galaxy was expected to be a marquee matchup, an early test of skill between two strong teams that might end up facing each other in the Finals. While the game itself was less competitive than expected (Michigan cruised to a 5-2 win), it turned out to be a memorable contest for other reasons. Galaxy D Bruce “Boom Boom” Hogaboom turned the game into an MMA match, and wound up receiving the league’s first suspension as a result.
“It’s official,” quipped Washington coach Rodney Reagle after the game. “Boom Boom retains his belt as the heavyweight champion of the SHL.”
The game was chippy from the beginning: the Galaxy and Wolves are both physical teams, and both seemed eager not to let the other push them around. “Our identity is strength,” said Michigan LW Vladimir Bersuchko. “We win when we dominate the physical battles. We are not afraid of hard checks and aggressive play.”
Beruschko’s “aggressive play” seemed a little too aggressive in the eyes of the Washington bench. “There’s a line between playing hard and playing dirty,” said Galaxy C Eddie Costello. “Vlad was way over that line, and the refs weren’t doing a damn thing about it.” It infuriated the Galaxy that the Wolves winger had been whistled for only one minor penalty over the first two periods.
During the second intermission, Hogaboom asked Reagle to put him on the ice against Beruschko. “Bruce said if the refs weren’t going to do something about it, he would,” said the Galaxy coach.
Less than a minute into the third period, Beruschko violently checked Washington RW Jefferson McNeely into the boards. Hogaboom skated over to Beruschko and challenged him. The two proceeded to trade blows, with Hogaboom getting the better end of things by most accounts. Both players were assessed five-minute majors for fighting.
Later in the period, Wolves D Bjorn Tollefson took a run at Galaxy LW Walt Camernitz, dumping him into the Washington bench with a high check. The play outraged Hogaboom, who wasn’t on the ice at the time. He leapt over the boards and charged at Tollefson, fists flying.
The resulting battle was wilder and more physical than Hogaboom’s earlier tussle with Beruschko, and the Galaxy defender wound up on the ice throwing right crosses to Tollefson’s head. This time, in addition to matching majors, Hogaboom wound up with an additional instigation minor. Reagle said that he had to talk the officials out of ejecting Hogaboom from the game.
After the game, the Galaxy enforcer was defiant. “It’s like frontier justice,” said Hogaboom. “You let law enforcement try to handle things. If they won’t do it, you’ve got to take matters into your own hands. [The Wolves] were getting away with murder out there, and the referees didn’t do nothing. We had to put a stop to it, and I stepped up.”
The SHL held a disciplinary hearing about the incidents on Tuesday, after which Hogaboom was suspended for one game. “The SHL is supposed to be family-friendly entertainment,” said Commissioner Perry Mitchell. “When a player turns a game into a spaghetti Western, as Commissioner I have the responsibility to take action. The second one in particular, when Hogaboom came off the bench to fight, that was a serious problem. That’s how a fight can degenerate into mayhem, and I don’t want to see that. Combine that with his lack of remorse, and a suspension was my only option.
When informed of the suspension, Hogaboom said it was “the cost of doing business” and added, “If the refs had done their damn jobs, this never would have happened.”
The Galaxy and Wolves face off again at Cadillac Place next month.