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(DARRYL DYCK)
(DARRYL DYCK)

Canucks bench O'Brien for three games Add to ...

Shane O'Brien has been punished by the Vancouver Canucks after what head coach Alain Vigneault said was a series of incidents.

O'Brien, who showed up late to Monday's practice and was kept off the ice, will not practice or play with the team until next week. He will not make the trip to California later this week, and head coach Alain Vigneault said the defenceman's place in the organization will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

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"Obviously, there's more to this than just yesterday's incident," Vigneault said Tuesday before a home game against the Phoenix Coyotes. "I'm not a rookie at this."

Vigneault said he was not "sending any messages," but refused to answer most questions about O'Brien's banishment. He said O'Brien status for road games in Los Angeles and Anaheim later this week could change if the team loses defencemen to injury.

On Monday, O'Brien skated on his own well before his teammates took the ice for pre-game preparations. Cryptically, teammates suggested it was not a leisurely glide across the ice.

"He's got a few extra pounds to lose," forward Alex Burrows quipped.

O'Brien was not made available to the media by the Canucks, but teammates Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Hordichuk said hockey players are often late to practice. But as Hordichuk so eloquently put it, there's a difference between being late and getting caught.

"Everybody is late once in a while, and players cover for them," said Wellwood, adding that bathroom breaks and interviews are often cited when a coach can't find a player at a prescribed time. "We couldn't cover this one up."

Canucks players are expected to arrive at GM Place one hour before practice begins. Wellwood described the team's atmosphere as "casual" when the tardiness is measured in minutes, but said that arriving less than one hour before practice is "playing with danger."

O'Brien showed up roughly five minutes before the Canucks hit the ice on Monday.

"It's a fairly serious offence - missing practice - we only have to be here a few hours a day," Wellwood added. "You don't want it, but at the end of the day, it could be something that motivates him."

Vigneault said O'Brien, 26, was not being suspended, suggesting that his situation is more along the lines of a healthy scratch for multiple games, and being left at home for a road trip. A message to O'Brien's agent, Ottawa-based Larry Kelly, was not immediately returned.

O'Brien's teammates spoke before Vigneault revealed his disciplinary measures, and most treated it as a light subject, fair game for teasing a well-liked member of the dressing room.

Hordichuk told a story from his junior days with the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades, when he ignored a midnight curfew and went deer-hunting at 3 a.m. He shot his first deer, came back to the dressing room as a conquering hero, and was immediately informed by his head coach that he was being suspended for a game.

"I think I've been late before, but I don't think I've ever been caught," Hordichuk said. "There's a difference between being late and being caught."

 

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