Not Enough

Submitted by Brian on January 26th, 2009 at 11:23 PM

Conboy and Tropp have been suspended for the remainder of the season. This is actually bothersome because it carries an air of finality to it. CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos:

"We feel that the measures taken by Michigan State are appropriate and consistent with the parameters of the sanctions that were being contemplated by the league," league commissioner Tom Anastos said in a news release.

It certainly sounds like the league is not inclined to levy any further punishment and next year Steve Kampfer is going to have to skate against the goons who knocked him unconscious and slashed him in the head. This is not a penalty. State's season is over. It was over the moment this assault occurred, guaranteeing a season sweep at the hands of Michigan and resigning State to last place in the CCHA. If this penalty is the only one levied, there will be no lasting impact to either the Michigan State program or the careers of Conboy and Tropp. The net penalty to the program and the players: NOTHING. Zero. This is cosmetic. It is not enough. It is not 10% of enough.

As a reminder:

At an absolute bare minimum of acceptability neither of these players can ever be suffered to play Michigan and Steve Kampfer again. If this is the only penalty levied the CCHA has basically abstained on serious repercussions.



January 27th, 2009 at 9:25 AM ^

does not distinguish between the two players in this post. He merely wants more punishment and, in his own words, a "lasting impact to either the Michigan State program or the careers of Conboy and Tropp". Sounds emotional rather than rational. I'd like OSU banned from the postseason for Troy Smith's $100 handshakes, but it's not happening.

Pursuing legal action against Tropp would likely result in a countersuit against Kampfer's dad. My uneducated guess is that both would rather move on. While the "he KNEW his skull was fractured and he was sent by Comley to kill him" meme might fly here, it wouldn't last a second in court.

PA Blue

January 27th, 2009 at 9:51 AM ^

"While the "he KNEW his skull was fractured and he was sent by Comley to kill him" meme might fly here, it wouldn't last a second in court."

There is no reason that has to be part of the argument. He clearly tried to inflict serious harm on him. His prior injury isn't the issue. And no one is suggesting that Comley sent anyone to kill anyone. Nice straw men, though.


January 26th, 2009 at 11:45 PM ^

And I know I'm probably reading too much into the statement by Anastos, but is it okay that MSU's decision was simply "inside the parameters" of what the CCHA was considering?

Is that the standard they want to set? So your goal is not to come up with the most appropriate punishment, rather to shoot for something that falls just within the lowest level of punishment the CCHA is considering and go with that. As long as what the school suggests is consistent to the most lenient they are contemplating you're okay?

I know this could be seen as taking his words out of context, but it's a damn news release; if that's not what he meant to say then he's an idiot. Frankly, this is what we were kind of expecting and for some it may be enough, but the little reasoning given for letting this stand by the CCHA is laughable at best and somewhere closer to disgusting in reality.


January 26th, 2009 at 11:57 PM ^

so the message we can glean from the suspensions and ccha response is: these two clowns can't be thugs for the remainder of the year, but feel free to skate on msu's ice on msu's dollar next year.

a leopard doesn't change his spots...until next year.


January 27th, 2009 at 12:38 AM ^

...certainly does NOT preclude any legal remedy, should Kampfer decide to pursue that route, correct?

What a joke. Oh yeah, where did Tom Anastos go to school and play hockey for, again? Figures.


January 27th, 2009 at 12:42 AM ^

Both players always have the option of turning pro (Conboy was a draft pick of Montreal). He could easily leave the program via signing with them, though I don't expect Montreal to sign him until after the season if they do due to the current uproar. So saying that they should be suspended for life or not be able to play against Michigan again is a bit premature since they have other options out there. Wait and see...


January 27th, 2009 at 1:00 AM ^

Though I see what you're getting at, it isn't premature to say they should be kicked off the team or suggest any other punishment. This is when the punishment will be handed down...they won't wait and see what the players decide to do, then hand down a punishment based on that.

I didn't read the statement from MSU though. Did it say that they would be suspended for the season and then back on the team, or is there a chance that MSU could take further action after the season? I guess what I'm getting at is: will this be it? I am under the impression that the answer to that is 'yes.'


January 27th, 2009 at 1:11 AM ^

1) Total bullshit. This was a case of assault pure and simple. Players at every level know "the code" for conduct on the ice. People that step this far outside of the parameters of such a code are clearly loose cannons and don't deserve the privilege of playing the game.

2) Kampfer should pursue a civil suit against the players, the coach and MSU (maybe the CCHA as well), and should only drop the suit when the players and the coach are gone. The local authorities should also pursue battery charges against the players, and criminal negligence against the coach. The charges may not be successful, but they would at least get the attention of the various parties.

3) If you write to MSU's AD, please point out that they are now clearly aware of how dangerous these players are, and they would have no defense against any future incident. The first bite from a dog may be free in the legal sense, but if the owner fails to put down that dog then they deserve what they get. They could be exposed to huge liability for continuing to provide a forum for these players' misdeeds.

4) Allowing these players back on the ice is a mistake. If they allow them to play against Michigan they can expect nothing short of a riot on ice. These kinds of situations seem to occur when the existing remedies are insufficient. Like it or not, fighting is one way for there to be consequences for cheapshots out on the ice. When you disallow fighting, you eliminate that feedback mechanism, leaving suspensions as the only means of addressing such cheapshots. When the suspensions are inadequate, the anger and hostility will just linger and just result in more cheapshots. If you are going to eliminate the ability of the players to police themselves (fighting), the league itself had better be willing to lay down the law. Epic fail on that front.


January 27th, 2009 at 1:56 AM ^

Your third point is very well said. I had not thought of that, but one would expect MSU to try and remove these two players just because they have proven to be legal liabilities. I would wager they will be explicitly instructed to be on their respective best behaviors upon return.

Ali G Bomaye

January 27th, 2009 at 8:48 AM ^

As a law student and a Michigan fan, I think that Kampfer should feel free to sue Conboy and Tropp - in fact, he definitely should - but should restrain from suing the coach, the school, or the CCHA. If he sued the latter three, it would give service to the impression that he was digging for gold, rather than trying to punish those who attacked him.

Let's be real here - the coach didn't send those guys out there to do that. It was a moronic retaliation for a clean hit. If you say the coach is liable for keeping those guys on the ice (even though only Conboy has a history), you have to condemn every coach who's ever put an enforcer out there. In the same vein, I don't really get why MSU or the CCHA would be liable. Maybe they didn't punish these guys enough, but that hardly makes them liable for the attack on Kampfer.

Final thought: I think Conboy and Tropp should be banned from any future competition in the CCHA. But if you're going to suspend them beyond this year, you have to do it in an even-handed way. Some posters have suggested that they never be allowed to play against Michigan again, but this won't work - it would be unfair to the rest of the teams in the CCHA. To me, this is the best reason to ban them for life - prevent them from playing against Michigan again in a way that's fair to the other teams.

Glen Masons Hot Wife

January 27th, 2009 at 2:18 AM ^

Not sure I agree with kicking Conboy out of the NCAA. The camera doesn't give as clear a shot of what he did. But if all Conboy did was punch Kampfer in the back of the head, I disagree. Yes it was a thug move. Yes he should be suspended maybe a couple of games. My guess is Conboy was looking for a fight, and Kampfer, being smart about it, wanted to avoid it (if he even realized Conboy was coming) Conboy tried a little too hard to make it happen. I think the sometimes over the top emotions are one of the greatest things about college hockey. Sometimes, things get crazy. Still, a line needs to be drawn. And I think it starts with Tropp.

I don't think you can blame the refs "letting the game get out of hand" for what Tropp did. Tropp alone is responsible for his actions. Conboy didn't make him slash a down player in the face and neither did the refs. In fact, even in that heightened state of emotion, Conboy seemed to realize the fucking insanity of Tropp's not one, but two cracks at Kampfer's neck, as he tried to push him away.

I do think Brian has a legit argument for banning Tropp.

Please don't everybody hate me. Please don't ban me. I think the argumentative discourse is a big part of what makes this blog so great.


January 27th, 2009 at 4:01 AM ^

I disagree about Conboy pushing Tropp. Look at both of them as they react to the lineman when he skates in. Both players took shots at the ref. They both knew Michigan players were coming after them. Conboy and Tropp both shove or corss check the ref before the Michigan guys get there. Conboy was not telling Tropp to knock it off, he was looking to brawl.

As for the CCHA, I hope they do more than suspend the players to the end of the season. For Conboy, that's fine. Tropp, needs a few games at the beginning of next year at minimum.

The Nicker

January 27th, 2009 at 2:52 AM ^

. . . even as a Michigan homer that many of the people contributing opinions on here, as well as Brian, may be overreacting.

Things we can all agree on:

1) Both actions were way out of line

2) Both players deserve a long suspension.

3) Kampfer has a liability case in Court that is worth pursuing.

From there, we disagree. Tropp has no history of being a thug, or even a jerk, in the general sense (no priors, as they might say in "Law & Order"). Not that this excuses his action, but there are a whole lot of excuses for his action when you're talking about ONE swing of the stick on a player in real-time game action.

Yes, Kampfer was down.

Yes, the result was horrific and shameful.

Yes, it is likely that the intention of the player was neither to slash Kampfer in the neck nor to slash an unconscious player.

Yes, it is true that there is a very small likelihood that Tropp even knew who Kampfer was much less his history of physical issues.

In my opinion, the Conboy action is worse due to his history of actions in the league and the drawn-out premeditated nature of his action. A season-long suspension is noteworthy and probably correct in both cases.

To argue that any game involving these two with Michigan will result in a brawl precludes that Michigan has no discipline and that the game of hockey is similar to a Mob street war in "The Godfather." People will move on, and at worst there will be a fight, not a cheap shot. That's the way hockey is supposed to be.

Terrible act. Fitting punishment.

El Jeffe

January 27th, 2009 at 7:26 AM ^

I get the basic tone and gist of your post, and agree with some of it. However, a comment and a question.

I TOTALLY disagree that it was "likely that the intention of the player [note: Tropp, right?] was neither to slash Kampfer in the neck nor to slash an unconscious player."

Unless that was a huge typo, uh, like, watch the film. Tropp treated Kampfer's head like a fucking puck. How could a D-1 college hockey player be a D-1 college hockey player if he has such shitty aim that he hits a motionless human in the neck instead of, say, the chest or shoulder? Second, as you can tell from the video, Tropp winds up, checks himself, and then re-winds up after he has a better shot. Dude was absolutely aiming for his head.

Finally, a question for those of you who know relatively high level hockey: what is the likely outcome next year when UM/MSU play? Will there be one giant fight right after the puck drops or will Conboy/Tropp be constantly headhunted? I kind of like the latter idea--just harass them constantly for the whole game. Any time there is a remotely legal chance for a check, go for it. Would totally take their heads out of the game. Of course, it might also take our heads out of the game, so...

Promote RichRod

January 27th, 2009 at 8:09 AM ^

when the act is egregious enough. He could have fucking paralyzed him.

If I shoot at someone and by some fortuity miss or the guy is wearing a vest, I don't walk free or get some bullshit 3 month sentence for disturbing the peace. I get fucking attempted murder.

These things should be punished just like in criminal law. Priors only matter for repeated, moderately bad acts to justify a larger penalty to provide additional deterrence. The intent of the criminal (yes, criminal) should be dispositive as to punishment. Only a slight reduction in penalty should accompany a horrible malicious act that by some fortuity did not bring out the intended outcome. Oh, and the availability of other avenues of enforcement (here, private tort law) should be utterly irrelevant. Can you imagine walking in the courtroom for an armed assault and they say OK well we will reduce it to a $500 fine because the victim can always recover from you in a tort action? No! Criminal law is there is punish and deter others, while private law is to compensate the victim. Here, the bad actor was not adequately punished and neither he nor the rest of the league is properly deterred from doing the same damn thing in the future.

Alaska Hokie

January 27th, 2009 at 5:45 AM ^

Let me preface this remark by saying that what happened is atrocious, and the two players involved should be punished to the fullest extent possible.

That said, I was discussing the incident with a friend of mine, and he brought up the point that this is the second incident Kampfer has been involved in this year. Is Kampfer deliberately inflammatory or have the kind of personality that inspires these things?

Promote RichRod

January 27th, 2009 at 7:57 AM ^

Things should evoke a proportional response. If you are walking down the street and I trip you, I'm an asshole, but that doesn't mean you can shoot me in the face.

Hart liked to talk shit, so it was perfectly reasonable for people to talk back, maybe even hit him slightly harder (assuming a legal hit during the play, etc). It's absolutely NOT ok for someone to intentionally snap his arm in half then say "well, he's an abrasive guy."


January 27th, 2009 at 8:08 AM ^

First, I don't blame Kampfer's parents a bit, the act was disgusting, and I wouldn't have disagreed with even harsher penalties were they enforced. Comley also is a classless ass who only took this action under pressure.

Having said that, I think the penalties are appropriate. Sparty's season is "over" in a metaphorical sense, but they do still have games to play. There is very little precedent, Bertuzzi aside, for carrying out suspensions over multiple seasons, and to suggest that the two players never be allowed to play Michigan again, with all due respect, is to me an emotional rather than rationale response.


January 27th, 2009 at 8:27 AM ^

The problem with any legal action is that if the reports of Mr. Kampfer confronting Goon #25 are true then Gooner will be able to file a suit right back at him. Assault doesn't have a stipulation for justified retaliatory fathers, and whereas (as we can see in our thread alone) there is disagreement on Tropp's intentions, there won't be gray area if Tropp presses charges.

FTR I think a suspension for the remainder of the season is of course only the bullet to the head of the terminal man, but maybe Tropp and Conboy will level out by next season. Actually, I'd like us to have a crack at them again. (The term 'crack' here is obviously meant literally. -_-)


January 27th, 2009 at 10:48 AM ^

There is a difference between assault and battery and assault with a deadly weapon. There is no requirement to determine intent for either. Observe:

THE MICHIGAN PENAL CODE Act 328 of 1931 - (excerpts)

750.81 (Assault and battery)

"a person who assaults or assaults and batters an individual, if no other punishment is prescribed by law, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both."

750.82 (Felonious assault)

"a person who assaults another person with a gun, revolver, pistol, knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles, or other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both."

If Tropp's intent to murder, maim, or inflict great bodily harm could be determined it would only add to this penalty. But he definitely could be charged with felonious assault. Misdemeanor assault is not equivalent.


January 27th, 2009 at 4:04 PM ^

That's why I said if the reports are even true. However, if they are then Mr. Kampfer's actions would (seemingly) have risen to A&B. Good that it is not felonious, but bad that it is still an offense.

also, thanks for the definitions, that helps the scope of the discussion a ton.


January 27th, 2009 at 9:13 AM ^

Suspension for the remainder of the season strikes me as a fair penalty. Brian, your assertion that the severity of the penalty should be tied to the quality of the games missed ("This is not a penalty. State's season is over.") doesn't sway me. By that logic, no suspension of a Western player could ever be long enough.

Besides, State's new coach next year will still have the ability to extend the punishment.


January 27th, 2009 at 10:13 AM ^

It would be different if they were good at sports - the lesser penalty would be OK.

Since these guys are on a team that sucks, they should be penalized even more.

It's common mgo-sense. There needs to be a clearly defined double standard for athletes on bad teams and athletes on good teams. Somebody email the CCHA commish.


January 27th, 2009 at 9:14 AM ^

I admit I don't follow UM hockey much (more of a football and B-ball fan), though I'm still a supporter.

Does it feel slightly conspiratorial that the commish of the CCHA is an MSU alum?

Michigan Arrogance

January 27th, 2009 at 9:38 AM ^

not at all. anastos has been a fine commish for the ccha.

i agree about what *should* have been the punishment for these acts, especially since fighting is banned in the college game and there is literally no other way to police these actions besides the refs and league suspensions after the fact. but, you can't be shocked at the actions taken my MSU. it's close to what you'd expect... as was the officiating. be as pissed as you want about all of this, but you shouldn't be surprised if you've followed NCAA hockey for more than 4 seconds.


January 27th, 2009 at 9:46 AM ^

For me a fitting penalty would be to force the players to use a redshirt year next season.
-If this were the NHL the penalties would have been a minimum 20 games.
-Since this is college and fighting isn't allowed, the penalties should have been worse.
-Forcing a redshirt year doesn't hurt their education, it frees up some time for them to get their act together if necessary, and allows them for a deserved second chance.

As it stands now 10 games in a lost season is a vacaton. Ask folks who have been on a crappy team, I bet half of them would be happy to not have to play out the string. This isn't punishment at all.

I wonder if charges were pressed, would the CCHA be inclined to increase the penalty due to the amount of attention it would get. Either way, if this had hit ESPN they would have had to sit out more than 10 games in a lost season.

J. Lichty

January 27th, 2009 at 10:24 AM ^

Although there is a chance for punitive damages - Kampher's actual damages will be pretty light - civil suit probably not worth it.

While there is some precedent in Canada for criminal action (MCSorely was prosecuted I believe) not aware of any in US or Michigan in particular.

I think the punishment would have been worse had Kampfer been hurt more severely from this incident, but that is just speculation.

These two are going to be under a microscope next year and Comley really needs to consider asking them to leave the program over the off season.

Regarding next year's meeting should these players be on the ice. Yes they will have a target on their back for every Michigan player. They will be hit and harassed and likely the targets of cheap shots. I expect that the refs will have zero tolerance lest the game get out of hand. This is not over by a long shot if these two goons ever see the ice against Michigan again.

Promote RichRod

January 27th, 2009 at 2:02 PM ^

This would be the poster child for punitive damages. What you need is wanton, malicious conduct...hmm, some of that here, yes? Perhaps not millions, but the public thinks every PD award is in the millions whereas the average award is much much much smaller. PD are there to punish and deter (rather than compensate), and clearly that is needed here to teach assholes like these guys a lesson.

Also, PD are generally considered reasonable in the 3 - 10X of actual damages suffered. He went to the ER, so every bit of that hosptial bill is recoverable as pecuniary damages. It's likely around 2k or far more, depending on what tests were run. Pain and suffering and some other non-economic injuries would also be appropriate (e.g., emotional distress, if applicable). His actual harm could easily be in the 10-50K range, with punitives of 30k - 150k or more.


January 27th, 2009 at 10:57 AM ^

I saw the tape 10 times and I hate to say this, but all of you, including Brian, are way, way, way overreacting. Take a step back and see it for what it was: two MSU players who thought Kampfer made a run at one of them, reacted as hockey players do by trying to insight a fight, but went about it poorly. The first MSU player was intent to punch him and would have done so whether he was facing toward him, it just so happened he was skating away, and the other poked Kampfer on the ground with his stick, but to call this intent to do serious bodily harm is absurd. There was no Marty McSorly two handed wack ala Brashir here. There was a mild poke. When the MSU player dragged Kampfer down, there was no Bertuzzi pounce with a two stick cross check to the neck and head... Seriously, those of you saying "he clearly tried to inflict serious bodily harm" make me wonder if you thought you were watching badminton...

Further, to expect that both MSU players, in the heat of the moment thought "Oh, this is that UM player with a fractured neck so we should take extra care even though he apparently just took a run at one of us tossing our player down" is absurd.

Listen, I'm as big a UM fan as there is, but be reasonable. They were suspended for the season, and that is just punishment. Calling for more severity just makes you look bad as UM fans...


January 27th, 2009 at 11:17 AM ^

Is it just me, or do Comley's rationalizations serve to aggravate an already outrageous situation? Both that night and in his statement announcing the suspensions, he had to make sure to tell all of us that the players' actions weren't premeditated. Better still, on Saturday night, he explained to all us hot-headed conspiracy-theorists that "coaches don't send somebody on the ice to do something, no matter what fans think." Uh, ever heard of Marc Crawford?

How 'bout this? You apologize for the actions of your players, hand out whatever suspensions you think appropriate, and then STFU? Protesting against charges that nobody has made -- for confirmation, check the heated discussion here the past couple of days, during which virtually noone has suggested Thug-boy was acting on his coach's orders -- raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps some of us were faulting you for something far more straightforward -- leaving Thug-boy on the ice at the end of a lost cause after he had put together a game's worth of goonery.

All these sorts of comments do is invite excuses and speculation about what motivated these two players to do what they did. As an example, look directly above -- they clearly thought Kampfer "made a run at one of them" -- yeah, that's what you conclude when a defenseman checks a player who's CARRYING THE PUCK AT THE TIME!!! Frankly, I don't care what thoughts were in their minds, assuming they were capable of forming any -- their actions speak for themselves, at least to those of us who have seen enough hockey to distinguish between "emotions" and assault. Again, take action and STFU.


January 27th, 2009 at 12:11 PM ^

Unfortunately for Conboy, he is getting lumped into this with Tropp. He was pissed, probably at how bad his team is this year and that they are about to be swept by their in-state rival, and wanted some sort of revenge. From the looks of it, he wanted to fight. He tried to fight Kampfer and then when Miller came in he immediately started throwing punches at him too. What he did was cheap, but you can't say he was intending to do any serious harm. He didn't continue after Kampfer while he was on the ground, he went after the next upright Michigan player. Also, it may just be my opinion as it is hard to see from the video, but he looks to actually push Tropp away from Kampfer before Miller got there. He looks to have seen what Tropp did and pushed him. He is a goon, and he did what goons do.

Tropp on the other hand did worse than what McSorley did to Brashear. McSorley hit a moving target and didn't even take a windup, just flicked his wrists basically. Tropp took a windeup at a prone player and hit a stationary target. McSorley also hit the helmet, Tropp didn't have to worry about such an obstruction. Tropp should be kicked out of the CCHA basically, as all these other incidents where people attacked others on the ice would get about a years suspension and that would bring him back at the end of next year. It doesn't matter if he has a history or not. Hockey players know where equipment is on the body, and they know where people can get hurt. People slash all the time on the arms, but you don't see too many people get too handed anywhere but the hips and the shins, where the most padding is. He was trying to hurt him. Thats probalby why Kampfer's dad reacted like he did. Tropp isn't some scrub who plays men's league and runs into people because he can't get out of his own way, he knows what he's doing and he knows better.