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SPHL suspends Thomas for season, playoffs

Former Komet Leo Thomas of Pensacola has been suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs following what the Southern Professional Hockey League called "an incident involving fans" at the end of the Pensacola-Louisiana game Friday night.

"Mr. Thomas could have assisted his teammate and helped defuse the incident, but instead escalated the situation and we cannot in any way condone or defend his actions," league President Jim Combs said in a statement. "Any confrontation with fans is a serious matter, but physically engaging a paying customer, for any reason, must result in a significant penalty."

Pensacola player Brad Cooper was suspended two games for his actions, the league said.

The club is coached by former Komets assistant Gary Graham.

In a news release reported by the Pensacola News Journal on its website, Graham said Thomas, the club's captain, only was coming to the aid of a teammate.

"Leo has been a great captain and a leader on and off the ice all season," Graham said, according to the newspaper.

"He made a split-second decision to defend his teammate and unfortunately the decision the league handed down has cost Leo his season with the Ice Flyers. While we don't agree to the length of Leo's suspension, we have to respect the SPHL's decision. Our team will handle this loss of our captain the best way we know how to, and that is by putting it behind us, moving on and continuing to produce wins."

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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