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Two Sudbury players suspended for comments made after Barrie game

OHL suspends Nathan Villeneuve for 15 games, while teammate Evan Konyen gets 10-game ban
Sudbury Wolves players Nathan Villeneuve, left, and Evan Konyen have been suspended by the league following comments made online after a Jan. 18 game against the Barrie Colts.

The Ontario Hockey League announced today that two Sudbury Wolves players have been suspended following an investigation into an alleged bounty being placed on a Barrie Colts defenceman.

The league says it became aware of "concerning allegations" regarding "inappropriate game-related comments" shared on a Wolves group chat following a game between Sudbury and Barrie on Jan. 18. The league did not provide any specifics about the comments that were made. 

Because the league says the players contravened the OHL's social media policy, commissioner David Branch has suspended Nathan Villeneuve for 15 games, while teammate Evan Konyen has been assessed a 10-game ban. Both suspensions are effective immediately.

The OHL says its investigation revealed the players' conduct was "detrimental to the welfare of the league, one that would greatly compromise player safety and the overall integrity of the game."

The league says it takes breaches of its social media policy "very seriously, and believes that these suspensions will reinforce to players and team staff that all activity, be it in person, on the ice or online, must be in keeping with OHL policies."

In a Jan. 18 game between the Colts and the Wolves, Barrie defenceman Kashawn Aitcheson hit Villeneuve with a hard body check at Sadlon Arena.

Although there was no penalty called on the play, the check didn’t sit well with Wolves defencemen Nolan Collins, who fought Aitcheson later in the same game.

"The hit was hard but clean and, after review, was not deemed worthy of a penalty," Peter Robinson, a columnist for BradfordToday and InnisfilToday affiliate BarrieToday, wrote after the allegations surfaced. "Aitcheson was challenged to a fight by the Wolves’ Nolan Collins and willingly accepted — he’s dropped the gloves more than a few times since the start of his OHL career."

Three days later, when the two teams met again, Barrie didn’t dress Aitcheson, according to the game sheet. Sudbury won that game, 6-3.

"The Colts caught wind of the potentially dicey situation ahead of a return date in Sudbury a few days later and sat their second-year blue-liner to eliminate any possibility of retribution," Robinson added in his Feb. 24 column.

The teams played again at Sudbury Community Arena on Feb. 28, with Barrie winning 7-3. Aitcheson didn't play in that game, either. 

The league says this case highlights the need for further education. 

"The OHL goes to great lengths to educate its players on its various policies and code of conduct, with member teams required to facilitate interactive educational workshops," the OHL stated in a release announcing the suspensions. "This education includes specifically the league’s social media policy."

Barrie and Sudbury will meet again on Saturday, March 16 at Sadlon Arena, followed by another game in Sudbury on Friday, March 22 in what will be the penultimate game of the regular-season schedule.