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Published: Wednesday, 22 Feb 2017  
By: Stephen Heisler,

Should a gross deception by league and on-ice game officials be grounds for removal from the league, and maybe even level of play? If such a deception is apparently collaborated in an effort to gain a competitive advantage, should those officials be allowed to participate at any level of hockey?

What I’m about to talk about could shake the very fabric of what is expected from the idea of fair play. It is my hope that this Daily Dish results in the immediate suspension and removal of the two adults involved.

After a review and appeal process, the Western States Hockey League Executive Board decided that Oklahoma City Blazers top forward Kirill Romanov has been suspended for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and the 2017 Thorne Cup Playoffs.

The suspension stems from an incident at the end of a game between the Oklahoma City Blazers and El Paso Rhinos in which Romanov skated near linesman Randy Sappo and made incidental contact with the official.

League officials based their decision on the referee report filed by Randy Sappo and an eyewitness report of Executive Committee member Cory Herman, who also happens to be the Head Coach / General Manager / Owner of the Rhinos.

This from Sappo- Next, as the players did their salute to the fans, Romanov from OKC skated directly at me and while clapping with his hands over his head, intentionally made contact with me, shoulder to shoulder, while his elbow or arm smacked the side of my helmet.  I was a completely stationary object at this time and his actions were 100% deliberate.

Before saying anything else, please understand that league officials did not have access to this video before finalizing their decision.

Romanov, #71 in black, brushes by official. That's it. The video is in direct contrast to Sappo's statement and Herman's account to the league.

On Tuesday, February 7th, the Oklahoma City Blazers were informed by the WSHL that Romanov was suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, for intent to injure an official. Blazers President and Head Coach Tyler Fleck immediately appealed the suspension, and was informed on February 19th that the suspension would be upheld.

The video was posted later that day and has since caused uproar from supporters of the game across the continent.

It’s not a secret that the Blazers and I have had a cankerous relationship in the past. The posted video can’t be the incident that resulted in the suspension. If it is not the incident in question, Fleck should be the one removed from the league and game.

Now let’s get into the deception. Before the game on this date, there was a lot of bad blood between Sappo and the Blazers. During this game, Sappo took advantage of his authority with every opportunity.

It’s easy to understand why Sappo would be motivated to make such a ridiculous claim in his report; it’s personal for him because the Blazers have not been allowing Sappo to work in their building for over a year. Romanov is one of the Blazers leading players and Sappo knew that losing the kid would hurt Oklahoma City’s chances in the playoffs.

What bothers me the most is the account of Cory Herman. This is a guy with deep roots within the game and has all but singlehandedly kept the game alive in El Paso, while lending credibility to the league. I get wanting to win, but when that competitiveness turns to the tool of deception to gain a perceived advantage, the action cannot go unpunished.

My recommendation to the Amateur Athletic Union is simple, both Sappo and Herman should be immediately removed from the game pending an AAU executive review. The actions of these two adults go against the grain of everything the 129 year-old organization stands for. Romanov should be reinstated at once.


Eric Rodgers contributed to the article.

Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with the Heisler Hockey Group. Stephen and his family spend most of their time in Florida.

Author: Stephen Heisler from
Stephen Heisler has spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Stephen is also working with individual teams, coaches, and players as a director with Victorious Hockey Company. Stephen, his wife Deysi, and four children reside in Orlando, Florida.

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