Hershey Bliss D Ruslan Gromov is an old-school, hard-hitting blueliner. His aggressive, take-no-guff approach to the game has won him both admirers and detractors. On Saturday, in an otherwise unremarkable 5-2 win over the New York Night, Gromov’s physical play went over the line and earned him a one-game suspension.
Gromov has been vocal about his lack of respect for New York’s speed-and-offense-based game. In the past, he’s said of New York’s game, “That’s not hockey; it’s figure skating.” Almost from the drop of the puck, Gromov sought to intimidate the Night with his physical play. He targeted one of New York’s more physical players, D Tuomas Nurmi, with a series of slashes and rough checks. About a minute into the game, a frustrated Nurmi shoved Gromov in the chest. Gromov responded by punching Nurmi in the side of the head. The two wound up dropping gloves and tussling for a couple minutes before being separated and assessed matching majors.
“I do not know what his problem is,” said Nurmi of Gromov. “He seemed like he is a crazy man.”
Later in the first period, the Night established possession in the offensive zone and began peppering shots at the Hershey net. New York F Elmer Sigurdson, Jr. tried to set up a screen in front of the crease. Gromov responded by drilling him in the back and riding him down to the ice, and was whistled for interference.
Early in the second period, Sigurdson tried to get even by laying a hard open-ice hit on Gromov. The Hershey defenseman popped up and flung Sigurdson into the boards, earning another two-minute penalty for roughing. The two seemed destined to scrap, and six minutes later, Gromov jumped Sigurdson on a faceoff and the antagonists began trading blows, resulting in another pair of fighting majors.
Gromov finally crossed the line early in the third period, when he rammed Night C Phil Miller in the stomach with the butt end of his stick. That earned the defenseman a double minor for spearing and a game misconduct from referee Brandon Fosse.
Gromov claimed that his spearing of Miller was unintentional, but showed no remorse for his actions. “I play a physical game,” the Bliss blueliner said. “If the other team cannot handle that, they should not be playing hockey.”
The league wasted no time slapping Gromov with a suspension. “While we don’t object to physical play in this league,” said SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell, “there’s a difference between hard play and assault. Gromov’s actions were reckless, unprovoked, and dangerous. He could easily have injured someone with that kind of play. We don’t want to discourage him from playing hard, but he’s got to know where to draw the line.”
Gromov appeared undaunted by the discipline. In his first game back from the suspension, he got into two fights and racked up 12 penalty minutes. “I only know how to play one way,” said Gromov with a shrug. “I cannot change that.”