There has been way too much time spent on Dan Charleston’s actions last Saturday night. So, unless Charleston chooses to comment on the matter or any further news related to the story occurs, this is the last you’ll see of it here until he comes back from his 12-game suspension.
But, for all that’s been made of Charleston firing the puck into the stands on January 15, 2011, it was difficult not to think about the events of March 16, 2002. During play, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Espen Knutsen’s shot was deflected by the stick of Calgary Flames defenseman Derek Morris and into the stands, striking 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil in the left temple. She walked away with seemingly only a gash on her forehead. Two days later, she was dead.
That’s how serious this was. Dan Charleston could have killed someone. Thank goodness he didn’t. His actions, while far, far from calculated, were certainly careless. Frustrated, he fired the puck after the whistle blew at the end of the third period towards his own defensive end. There is little doubt that he had zero intention of sending it into the stands. But that’s where it was headed, ultimately striking a woman.
The irony is that on most nights, that puck would have had no chance of hitting anyone. Sun National Bank Center is usually relatively empty on most Trenton Devils game nights, but not that night. The team brought back its relatively successful “Scout Night,” promotion and it resulted in a fairly raucous and predominantly younger crowd of 4,686 fans, a season high. And many of those people might have found a new favorite player in Charleston during those first 60 minutes of hockey.
Charleston is a fun to watch, enthusiastic and energetic forward. A nice man. For example, he asked me at length about my vacation from a few months ago after a recent game when most guys make little effort to get to know you personally at all. I’m not even sure some guys know my name. But all that enthusiasm, all that energy…it was on display last Saturday. And no matter how you remember Charleston from that game, what you will likely remember about this game is Charleston.
The arena was rocking again, which it hadn’t in a long time for a Trenton Devils game. Four fights, plenty of goals and a crowd that was into it. These people were into it. And it was Charleston who brought them back into it three seperate times, with three of his career-high four goals bringing his team back from behind and tying the game. And then the end of the third period happened.
And a lot of people’s perceptions of Dan Charleston may have changed. And that’s their right.
I saw Charleston sitting at his locker with his head in his hands, sitting in all of his hockey gear despite having long since been sent to the showers after on-ice officials called a misconduct on him.
I am told Charleston felt awful about what he did. Am told he called the woman right after the game to apologize. But none of that information is coming from the New Jersey Devils organization, who let him down. Let themselves down at the same time. They could have easily conveyed Charleston’s remorse for his actions. Let fans know they care. They could have passed along a carefully-crafted quote or two from Charleston that let him express that for himself. Could have even let him speak for himself. Instead, not so much as acknowledging Charleston’s suspension during the first game of the 12 he received and issuing a one-line “let’s just hope this goes away” statement is what everyone got.|
The press release writes itself, really…
The Trenton Devils have announced they have accepted the ECHL’s decision to suspend Dan Charleston and will not appeal the decision.
“The safety of our fans is of the utmost importance to us,” said a team executive, in a line he didn’t actually say but probably would have, since that’s how press releases usually work.
“We have taken this matter very seriously and do not condone Charleston’s actions by any means. But after speaking with Dan and the league in investigating the matter, we’re very confident this was an innocent mistake. Dan feels awful about the incident and would like nothing more than to move on. Dan is a big part of our team, our organization and our community, and we welcome him back with open arms when his suspension is over.”
Yeah, it probably wouldn’t have looked like that…but something like that would have been better than the one-line statement they did issue. And, to be very clear, that’s on New Jersey, not Trenton. Trenton can’t announce transactions or make any sort of statements such as these until the organization says so. Nothing wrong with that, that’s how it works on the baseball side of things when I cover the Thunder/Yankees, too. But it’s also clear where any blame should go.
So nobody knows for sure all the things they assume Charleston is feeling. And that’s too bad. Charleston deserves the opportunity to tell his side of the story, say he’s sorry and move on. The organization feels otherwise, and who am I to tell them any different? But I’d love to give him that opportunity.
On the ice, the team will be without arguably its best player for 12 games. Charleston’s 1.31 points per game average is tops on the team. But that doesn’t really seem to matter. And know that he’s paying for his actions, both on the ice and off. Minor league athletes don’t make a lot of money — if you only ever read one other thing I’ve written, read this — so it isn’t just the games he’s missing, it’s the paycheck, too. Hopefully this is the end of the story for Charleston. Hopefully he can put it behind him and resume his hockey career.
And when he does — and it’s not my place to tell you what to do at a game, you guys spend your hard-earned cash to be there and I don’t — maybe you should cheer for him. Let him know you’re behind him. Let him know you support him. Let him know he’s the guy who scored four goals that night.
Let him know you’ve moved on too.
Publicly, at least, the Devils organization has done little to show support of Charleston. Hopefully, Devils fans pick up the slack.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com