(video via The Diag)
However, I would consider it assault. At the end of Michigan's 5-3 victory over Michigan State last night (giving Michigan the season series sweep), Spartan Andrew Conboy sucker-punched Wolverine defenseman Steve Kampfer from behind, and his teammate Corey Tropp added a couple vicious slashes to the head while Kampfer lay motionless on the ice. This was in response to a clean open-ice check by Kampfer on Tropp just seconds earlier. Kampfer was down on the ice for several minutes before being helped off by teammates, and was later taken to the hospital while wearing a neck brace.
If you don't remember, Kampfer was the player who was attacked by former Michigan football player Mike Milano in an off-campus incident earlier this year. He returned less than a month ago from a fractured skull and serious neck injuries.
Tropp was assessed a slashing major and a double game misconduct, while Conboy somehow escaped with only a double-minor roughing penalty. Spartan Coach Rick Comley said he would "take care of" his players, which hopefully means suspending these two goons for the duration of the season. The CCHA will also review the incident, and hopefully will come to the same conclusion that any sane hockey fan would: this was a beyond-dirty play with intent to seriously injure an opposing player. If either Tropp or Conboy sees the ice the rest of this season it will be an embarassment to Michigan State's program, the CCHA, and the game of hockey as a whole. The whole thing was eerily reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi's 2004 hit on Steve Moore that left Moore with three fractured vertebrae and a concussion. Moore has not returned to the NHL since that hit.
After the game, Comley called security after he was reportedly attacked by a Michigan fan. Rumor has it that fan was Kampfer's father, and that he was going after Tropp, not Comley, but nothing has been confirmed other than the fact that Comley asked for a police escort for his team.
The most important thing here is hoping that Kampfer is okay. I can't imagine how scary it is for him, his family, and hit teammates seeing him taken to the hospital in a neck brace knowing his injury history.
Here's another video of the incident, taken from the stands (hit happens 40 seconds in; video from MVictors, which has a great rundown of the whole thing):
UPDATE: MVictors now has still frames of the assault. Tropp's slash is made even more sickening by the fact that it looks like he cocked back, had second thoughts, and then decided to go through with bashing Kampfer in the head anyway.
Also, the Fanhouse's Bruce Ciskie has posted about last night, calling Tropp's slash "disgusting", calling for Tropp and Conboy to be suspended the rest of the season, and throwing out this quote:
Oh, and [Tropp] slashed a player who was probably unconscious at the time. There's a special place in hockey hell for people like that.It isn't just Michigan fans who are disgusted with this.