The brawl that erupted at the end of the Union-RPI hockey game Saturday night was more than unfortunate, it was a disgrace. It's good that there were quick suspensions -- of several players on both sides and Union coach Rick Bennett, who was dangerously out of control -- but the bad taste will remain for a long time.
Hockey is an intense, physical sport, and the contest that night between these two archrivals was such a game, won by RPI 2-1.
The outcome was a rarity, as Union's hockey program has eclipsed RPI's (and most others') in recent years to become one of the best in the country. RPI had lost 10 straight times to Union before Saturday night.
Unfortunately, the end will do little for either team's reputation (except perhaps with fans of the World Wrestling Federation) -- especially Union, which was most at fault.
It was Union's team captain who delivered a vicious cross-check to the face of an RPI player as time ran out.
And it was Union's coach who -- rather than try to calm things down as multiple skirmishes broke out after that -- came all the way across the ice, enraged, pushing, shoving and throwing punches in an attempt to get at RPI coach Seth Appert, even as players and officials restrained him.
In college hockey , unlike professional hockey , sportsmanship is stressed and fighting by players is not only discouraged but forbidden. The only reason the rule doesn't extend to coaches as well is that nobody expects them to fight.
Both coaches said all the right things at post-game press conferences, apologizing profusely to everyone. And Appert refused to fan the flames -- in fact, minimized the incident and emphasized his unchanged respect for Union coach Bennett.
But it was a big deal and should change the way others, including Union's adminstration, view Bennett. He has certainly proven he can coach, but the school must make it clear he can never act this way again if he is to be allowed to.