Nantucket hockey player suspended 1 year for ‘violent assault of an official’

March 6, 2024 / Athletic AdministrationHockey
A Massachusetts high school hockey player has been suspended one year—effectively ending his high school career—after he shot a puck into a scrum that featured teammates, opposing players, and referees.

Braden Knapp, a senior forward for the Nantucket High School Whalers varsity hockey team, was suspended on March 5 and was not allowed to play in the first two rounds of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 4 playoffs.

nantucketThe Whalers finished the regular season with a record of 15-4-1 and earned the two-seed in the Div. 4 tournament. They are currently three games away from a state championship.

A recent story from the Nantucket Current detailed the suspension and what led up to the decision by the MIAA. Below is an excerpt from the Nantucket Current story.

The “violent assault of an official” suspension was upheld by a five-person committee selected by the MIAA, and the decision came in a 5-0 vote. Knapp is the Whaler’s second-leading scorer this year with 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 20 games. He had never been suspended or issued a major penalty in his high school sports career prior to the February 22nd game against the Sandwich Blue Knights at the Gallo Arena. This was a first-time offense.

After the Whaler’s round one matchup against St. John Paul II on March 1, it was clear Knapp was still in shock over the whole situation. He told the Current and a couple of spectators around him that he regretted the incident deeply, that it was in the heat of the moment, and something “he would never do again.”

Knapp also denies attempting to shoot the puck at the referee. The intention was to take attention away from the scrum ensuing at center ice and end it.

For background, the chippy game between the Whalers and Blue Knights – two of the top teams in Division 4 – turned ugly in the game’s final seconds after a Sandwich player hit a Nantucket player behind the play – prompting one of the Whaler player’s teammates to return the favor with a crosscheck to the Blue Knight’s player later in the shift in what he said was a defense of his linemate.

Below is the clip of the incident. As the scrum drags out, check out the eight-second mark – top right of the video – and you’ll see Knapp shoot a puck into the scrum. The refs issued a disqualification penalty for “violent assault of an official” although all indications given to the Current at this time have been that no official was hit.

According to the MIAA Handbook Section 49.3.8: “a student who physically assaults an official shall be expelled from the activity immediately and banned from further participation in all sports for one year from the date of the offense.”

However, one-year suspensions can be appealed to an Eligibility Appeals Board (EAB) hearing to decide the length of the penalty. Knapp had his hearing on Thursday, February 29th.

An appeal needs to be initiated by the high school principal of the student in question, which Nantucket High School principal Mandy Vasil did. The disqualification determination then goes to the EAB Appeal Board for review.

The EAB consists of dozens of members ranging from athletic directors, principals, and superintendents across the state. On the MIAA’s website, they list 41 names of administrators across Massachusetts who are on the board.

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Whitman Hanson High School Athletic Director Bob Rodgers, who is one of the 41 EAB board members, was not part of this hearing but responded to a thread on Twitter (X) that originally broke the news of the suspension. He thoroughly detailed and outlined the process.

“The executive staff of the MIAA reaches out to the members and sees who is available for the hearings (oftentimes it can be a 3-5 hour commitment depending on how many cases are on the docket),” Rodgers said. “Five members are selected and then the school which has filed the appeal gets to present their case with witnesses, video, etc. Following their presentation, the board then discusses in private and votes. The intent is always to give students due process while upholding the integrity of the important rules that govern high school athletics in the state of Massachusetts.”

To read the full story from the Nantucket Current, click here.