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Admirals Babchuk suspended by AHL

By TRIS WYKES, The Virginian-Pilot
April 26, 2005

The AHL suspended Norfolk Admirals defenseman Anton Babchuk indefinitely Monday, pending full review of an incident during his teams Saturday playoff game in Philadelphia.

The 20-year-old Ukrainian missed Mondays contest against the Philadelphia Phantoms at Scope, Game 3 of the teams best-of-seven, East Division semifinal series.

Babchuk threw a water bottle into the Wachovia Center stands with roughly seven minutes remaining in Norfolks 3-0 loss in Game 2.

Bill Rouse of Ridley Park, Pa., told the Delaware County Times on Sunday that the bottle struck his 7-year-old son, Billy Rouse, near the left eye and added he planned to soon meet with an attorney to decide if he would press charges.

A woman reached by the paper Monday evening at the Rouse home who identified herself as Billy Rouses mother said the family has retained Jerry Dugan, a partner at a Philadelphia law firm. She declined further comment.

Norfolk coach Trent Yawney, who also has a 7-year-old son, said he doesnt expect the AHL to allow Babchuk to play again in the series. The defenseman didnt practice Monday morning but Yawney stressed that action wasnt a disciplinary move.

''He was in no mindset to practice and I didnt want to compound his situation by having everyone asking him questions, Yawney said, referring to media queries. ''Hes going to have to stand up like a man and answer them later, but today wasnt the day. The best tonic for him today was for him to go home.

Yawney said Babchuk tried unsuccessfully to reach the Rouse family by phone Monday morning and would apologize once he managed to make contact.

AHL president Dave Andrews, attending Mondays game on a trip scheduled before last weekend, said he expected the league to rule on Babchuks situation in the next three days. He added that AHL players are reminded each year in a league memo not to interact with fans during games.

''The players are constantly under some degree of verbal abuse from fans who feel they have the right to do that, Andrews said. ''To some degree, I guess they do, but well have to see what happened here.

Babchuks absence hurts an Admirals team already reeling from numerous injuries and another AHL suspension, a five-game ban on forward Mike Brown for an accumulation of misconducts. But Yawney said Norfolks weakened lineup wont factor in how he disciplines Babchuk.

''We miss him in terms of on-ice performance but theres a bigger fish to fry here, said Yawney, who has long stressed building good character among his players. ''Hes got to learn and hes got to pay for a lack of discipline.

Bill Rouse said Sunday that Babchuk was being heckled by fans sitting behind him and his son and that the defenseman twice faked throwing the bottle before actually doing so. The player was then ''pelted with debris, Rouse said, acknowledging that he threw a partially full soda cup at Babchuk after his son was struck.

Yawney said he saw a cup of tobacco spittle hit one of the Admirals but he, Mac Isaac and team captain Ajay Baines said Babchuks offense was wrong regardless of what came from the stands and when it was hurled.

''You get in a situation like that and you dont know what youre doing, is I guess what happened, Baines said.

''But youve got to be able to control yourself and take it.

Anton feels bad about it and wishes he could take it back.

Yawney, who captained the 1988 Canadian Olympic team and played 12 NHL seasons, wishes Babchuk had directed his anger in another manner.

''The best way to shut opposing fans up is by going out there and scoring a goal and Anton is quite capable of doing that, the coach said.

He could have had the last laugh if he had channeled that negative energy in a positive way.

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