On Tropp

by Ryan

Since we started the blog almost two years ago, we’ve done goofy things with each Sabres draft class. As the blog has evolved I look back on some of the things from the first few months and cringe at times, but through our “Facebooking the Draft Class” something interesting happened: I started to care more about the players. When your team drafts high school kids to play hockey, all you get is a name for a good three years or so. By getting to know them a little better it makes me root for them a bit more, and keep up on their progress as time goes on.

So when Corey Tropp two hands Steve Kampfer last Saturday, you knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of hand. All of a sudden we’re getting found through Google searches, and Michigan blogs are linking to our draft profile of Tropp. The next day it went national, and Puck Daddy picks it up on Tuesday. Yesterday Deadspin has this post regarding the incident, which includes the following sentence:

And maybe this criminal violence says something larger about the game of hockey and fans who crave it.

Now I’m still waiting to find out what that “something” is, but I’m pretty sure it’s complete and utter bullshit. Obviously things are beginning to reach the “crazy people” zone, where a single event signifies just another reason for blahblahblah. When bad things happen in hockey everyone comes out of the woodwork to make a statement about the deplorable state of the game, and this was just another chance for people to stretch their legs.

Still, I think as Sabres fans there are a lot of unanswered questions. Just how much can we know about a single player through one single action? My guess was not much, and so I asked someone who knew him a bit better a lot of questions. That someone is Kris Baker, founder of SabresProspects.com. After a half dozen or so questions, here’s what he had to say:

Lots of folks have been asking about Tropp over the past few days, and my standard answer is that “hockey is fast – both physically and emotionally.”

I can confidently say that Tropp is not a dirty player. He’ll roll up his sleeves, play the body, and bring ’em up after the whistle like an engaged player should. He had four fights in 2006-07 with Sioux Falls, but I’ve never seen him do anything remotely close to what happened on Saturday.

Even if there was a knee by Kampfer, you simply can’t condone what he and Conboy did.

I find the bolded sentence from Sioux Falls CEO Gary Weckwerth particularly interesting:

“While Corey apologized for his actions, it’s my opinion that he is a victim of other circumstances off the ice that do not reflect on Corey’s true character. In his two years with our franchise Corey played the game within the rules and spirit that hockey is. He is a good person who knows he is family with the Stampede. We know what Corey is about and are saddened that the entire situation even took place. We welcome him back. We want hockey to be fun for Corey again.”

It’s not fair to speculate on personal, team, or family instabilities, but the bolded offers a little more color from an “evaluation” standpoint. The rest speaks consistently with everything else we’ve ever heard about him.

Worth adding – He was frustrated by getting mono around the time when Team USA was being put together. Not achieving that goal was a disappointment. He had a good camp over the summer, and even got tossed from one of the final scrimmages for getting in a fight. It shows that “fight or flight” personality on the ice.

Regarding the Sabres, I know they have dialogue with him during the season. While disappointed, they know that “he is he what he is” before the incident – a steady worker with a great wrister – and will give him every opportunity to turn it around in the USHL. I’m sure they advised him on his current path. Call me an optimist, but I do not believe that this deters either party long term.

All Corey can do at this point is work his way back up and let his disciplined, productive on-ice actions speak for themselves. Off ice, I think he set himself up correctly.

He’s retaining his scholarship and taking MSU classes online. Going back to the USHL and not to Sarnia in the OHL allows him to remain eligible for collegiate play. He was only suspended for the rest of the year by MSU and not the CCHA, and Comley said he’d be willing to re-evaluate the situation under the right circumstances. Again, no previous incidents of over-aggression, but I’d still request counseling as part of the process of clearing his name.

That’s where I’m at anyways.

He covered a lot there, but he also went on to say that, “I’ve read opinions that think he should be done with hockey, yet the police deemed it a non-criminal event. That seems extreme. He’s 19, and he made a mistake that he’ll learn from. I’d bet that nearly everyone who visits the Roost did something entirely stupid yet non-criminal when they were 19.”

I think that last part is something that a lot of people are missing. Kris bookended his thoughts with two very important points in this discussion: the nature of hockey and the age of the players involved. We all know that hockey is a lightning fast game, and when you couple quick decision making with youthful error mistakes will be made. Everyone agrees that a mistake of this magnitude is unacceptable, but I don’t think that means Tropp should be thrown under the bus just yet.

In a game like hockey, you simply cannot form an opinion of a player based on only a few seconds. This incident will be a first impression for many people, but one singular moment is not the whole story of a player, and certainly not the human being. When it comes down to it he’s just a kid, and a kid with plenty of time to make up for a mistake like this. If I wasn’t willing to give someone like Tropp a second chance I’d be forgetting about a whole mess of stupid things I did when I was younger.

I feel like I must stress that in no way am I condoning what Corey Tropp did on Saturday, and I’m sure Kris Baker isn’t either. What he and I agree on is that a second chance will be given to him, and rightfully so. It’s up to him what happens from here on out, but it’s clear that he was properly punished for a brutal act. It’s not the end of the road for anyone involved, and that’s probably the best you can ask for right now.

For the record, the “favorite quotes” section on his Facebook now reads: “Don’t get caught up in the things you can’t control, remember why you started playing, and don’t let anyone ever take that from you.” I think right now, that’s exactly what you want to hear.

3 Comments

  1. Caroline

    Solid post, Ryan. As a hockey fan who follows both the Sabres and the Spartans, I’ve taken a higher interest into this whole incident and it’s nice to read some more insight on it.

  2. Zach

    I have to agree with everything you say here. It will be very interesting to see where the Sabres and Tropp go with this. Incidents like this happen and people move on. If Todd Bertuzzi can play, so can he.

  3. Steve

    I’m glad Zach mentioned Bertuzzi; all I could think while reading this article was, “How many players do you know who only have one really bad incident in an otherwise good career?” He’s shown a willingness to let his emotions get the best of him and attack another player. So many players don’t learn from the punishment they receive after something like this; I hope he’s one of the ones who does.