Matt Nickerson is quite a fighter. The 6’4″ blue liner racked up an impressive 819 penalty minutes in 206 career games in the EIHL (UK). This season alone, he’s posted 150 penalty minutes in 36 games. Of course, that’s all based on action on the ice.
It’s his off-ice actions that earned him a 20-game ban — and got him kicked off his team.
After the final whistle of a 3-2 loss by Nickerson’s Milton Keynes Lightning to the Guildford Flames, the bruising blueliner left the bench to start an altercation. The linesmen attempted to corral Nickerson, who refused to follow orders and physically broke free from the linesman on multiple occasions, earning him a Match Penalty for Abuse of Officials.
“Considering Nickerson had no regard or respect for the game officials and left the players bench for the purpose of engaging in a physical altercation with an opposing player,” wrote the EIHL in their disciplinary decision, “supplementary discipline is required and the Elite League Department of Player Safety has suspended Matt Nickerson for 6 games for Abuse of Official.
Nickerson picked up his second match penalty on his way off the ice. From the EIHL:
While leaving the playing surface, but still located on the ice, Nickerson takes his stick and moves it from his right hand to his left hand.
This is the start of an action that sets-up Nickerson for a physical motion with his right hand. It also is an indication that there is premeditated thought on Nickerson’s part to do something physical.
While stepping off the ice, with the gate directly to his right, Nickerson begins a winding up motion with his right arm. Unsuspecting to the fan who is located behind the gate, Nickerson delivers a forceful backhand punch directly to the head of the fan.
Fighting off the ice surface does not have the same rules as fighting on the ice surface; and hitting a fan off the ice surface is treated with an entirely different level of severity.
At no time is a player allowed to engage with a fan. It is the responsibility of the player not to make physical contact with a fan. In this case, Nickerson engaged and physical demeaned the fan of his own free will. As a result of these actions, the Elite League Department of Player Safety has suspended Matt Nickerson for 14 games for Engaging with a Spectator.
Referees for the game were Jan Schmejkal and Matt Rose; linesmen were James Ions and Ilia Kisil.
Shortly after the suspension was announced, the Milton Keynes Lightning cut Nickerson.
“Ice Hockey is a family sport and it is unacceptable that at any time supporters are threatened or made to feel unsafe,” the Lightning said in an official statement. “As a club we do not condone what happened and Matt has been held accountable for his actions by both the Elite League Department of Player Safety and by the club.”
“Milton Keynes Lightning takes the safety of their players, opposing players and most importantly the spectators very seriously, and the League need to ensure that all member clubs are compliant in their player and spectator safety procedures.”
Nickerson was drafted 99th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He played 59 games in the AHL, posting four assists and 141 penalty minutes. Nickerson has been in the EIHL since 2013.