ST. JOHN’S — Todd Gillingham got involved with hockey in a coaching capacity last winter after being away from the game for a number of years.
It could very well be a short return.
He is in his second year as head coach of the Northeast Eagles of the Avalon East Senior League, but he’s going to reflect on his future behind the bench after an episode during the Eagles 5-2 win over the St. John’s Capitals Sunday at Brother O’Hehir Arena in the capital city.
Gillingham was shocked at how things unfolded during a skirmish at the end of the second stanza with the Eagles and Capitals deadlocked at 2-2.
During the melee, the former enforcer with the St. John’s Maple Leafs of the American Hockey League for a number of professional hockey campaigns, said he witnessed one of the most disgusting acts he ever witnessed.
According to Gillingham, a member of the Capitals known for his rugged style of play became tangled up with one of his players, a forward who he feels is not only the best player on his team but probably in the entire AESHL. The player on Gillingham’s squad, who scored three unanswered goals in the third period to steal the win, came away from the melee with a bloody and swollen mouth.
Gillingham admits he was no angel during his pro hockey career and he played with and against some of the toughest the game ever produced. But, nothing he says, compares to the mess his player was left in after cooler heads had prevailed.
According to the 43-year-old real estate agent in St. John’s, when his player came out of the scrum, part of his mouth was ripped from his face. His player was left bloody and swollen and had to receive medical attention at hospital, according to coach Gillingham.
“He put his fingers in his mouth and pulled, and where your two lips join it was torn apart,” Gillingham said, noting he watched it all unfold in front of him.
He wishes the scene hadn’t made him weak in the stomach, but it got even worse for him from there.
When Gillingham reacted to his player being injured by making comments to the Capitals bench, the other bench, he said, began mocking him. Gillingham has been dealing with personal issues over the past five years so he wasn’t pleased when some personnel on the Capitals player’s bench starting motioning ‘tipping the bottle’ in reference to Gillingham’s battle with alcoholism.
“I was hurt. I was disgusted,” he said. “I didn’t get there and argue back and forth. Once that was made that was it, I shut my mouth. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t think something like that would be thrown at me.”
It is his understanding that the league is investigating and doesn’t condone such behaviour. But, he doesn’t see anything being done about it with both players only receiving minor penalties for their involvement in the melee.
“There’s nothing going to be done I wouldn’t say,” he said. “There was no penalty on the play. So it’s he said, she said. But, at the end of the day that’s what was done.”
Gillingham wishes the episode didn’t happen because he has been enjoying working with the Eagles.
“We got a good bunch of guys and we got a good thing going down there,” he said.