The Marlies took on the Utica Comets at the ACC today in an afternoon tilt on the second day of a back-to-back. That kind of scheduling is normal in the AHL, and it isn’t all that unusual to see the same goalie play both games. Antoine Bibeau has done it this year at least once already. In fact, Bibeau has been doing most of the netminding this year for the Marlies.
Still on the roster, but not yet having played a game in the regular season is Jeff Glass. He has dressed as Bibeau’s backup on a few occasions, but it was a surprise to find him announced as the starter for today’s game.
Glass got the win, and Bibeau was his backup although he never had to leave the bench for the game. That left one obvious question: where was Garret Sparks?
Bibeau played last night and Sparks is unavailable https://t.co/WBi8gzfqys— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 26, 2016
That was the answer to question on Twitter from a reporter present.
After the game, Shilton spoke to Sheldon Keefe and reported that Sparks was suspended indefinitely because of remarks that he had made on a Facebook group on November 22.
“[Garret] was sent home for some team policy reasons when we were on the road trip there [in New York],” Keefe said after Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Utica Comets. “I’m familiar with the circumstances, but we’re not going to comment any further from there. Management handled the situation.”
The terminology being used is “indefinite suspension” and “no timetable” for his return.
The incident on Facebook involved more than just Sparks. Some of the conversation was preserved in a screengrab here:
Not a good look for Garret Sparks. pic.twitter.com/UYL7alZnz4— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) November 22, 2016
That is not the whole conversation and is lacking some context. From Shilton’s story, prior to what you see above, a provocation took place:
According to users in a Facebook goalie group for which Sparks is an administrator, members of the forum were mocking a disabled person and Sparks came to that person’s defence
When Scott Wheeler, editor of Pension Plan Puppets, asked Marlies PR about this incident they responded as follows:
Comment from the Marlies on Sparks’ comments: pic.twitter.com/SekULNY56L— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) November 22, 2016
Without knowing how long this suspension will last, we are left to guess if this is an appropriate response by the team, or what its impact on Sparks’ future with the Marlies will be.
He has appeared in only four games so far this year.
The Facebook group in question GGSU, issued a press release dated November 26, responding to this incident. Written by Jacob Wint, it describes the nature of the group and then concludes in this way:
It is important to take the time to say that this issue was simply Garret protecting someone who could not defend himself. Garret was so invested in helping this individual follow his dreams of becoming a goalie. Garret invested his time and efforts to stand up for this individual, showing that he cared deeply to the well being of someone who was being mistreated and standing up for what he believed in.
The GGSU nature has been one of playful words and harmless banter. It is what has created the atmosphere and community we have worked so hard to develop over the years. It has never been acceptable to make fun of an individual who cannot stand up for himself, nor will we allow it to happen.
While we do not condone some of the things posted, we would like to say that we completely support Garret's honest intentions and stand behind him and only apologize that this has snowballed into something much bigger than it needed to be.
This group is a members’ only or closed Facebook group, and the screenshot that was posted on social media and then reposted in the tweet included above seems to have been made and initially distributed by a member of the group.