TAMPA, Fla. – Two Montreal Canadiens players arrested Monday morning outside a Tampa nightclub will not face disciplinary action from the hockey club.
Rookie defenceman Ryan O’Byrne and veteran winger Tom Kostopoulos were arrested at about 3 a.m. outside Whiskey Park, a Tampa nightclub.
Police said that O’Byrne, 23, stole a woman’s purse while Kostopoulos resisted an officer. O’Byrne told police it was his girlfriend’s purse, but police said it belonged to another woman.
O’Byrne was invited to take a seat in a police cruiser. At the same time, a group of club-goers, including several hockey players, surrounded the car. On a number of occasions, police say they ordered the group to disperse.
Kostopoulos, 29, was charged with resisting an officer without violence while O’Byrne was charged with grand theft. Both players were released on bail, accompanied by teammates Christopher Higgins and Cristobal Huet.
The purse, minus $20, and the phone were returned to the complainant.
O’Byrne had a right to a phone call and called his friend Higgins.
Neither player had much to say after spending the night behind bars.
“I can’t talk, the lawyers will take care of the affair,” said the hulking O’Byrne after practice Monday. “I hope that we can resolve this as quickly as possible.
“I apologize to my teammates and I don’t think this incident will bother the team.”
Kostopoulos also kept mum.
“I can’t say anything. But I am sorry,” Kostopoulos said.
“After our team meeting, Bob Gainey reminded us all there was a lesson to be learned from this incident. I am happy the team decided not to punish us.”
The consequences could have serious implications for both players. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services could ban both players from entering the U.S. if they end up with criminal records.
Canadiens GM Bob Gainey arrived in Tampa at 9 a.m. Monday and found out as he disembarked at the airport.
“My message is that this is serious business,” Gainey said. “It’s a shame that it happened. It’s not a pleasant event. It happened during an annual team dinner.
“Unfortunately we can’t go back, we must go forward. We will try to diminish and also eliminate the negative effects this story will have on our team.”
Gainey offered no excuses for his players and did not defend them either.
“They must face whatever awaits them after their actions,” Gainey said, adding he had no idea what awaited either player in the days and weeks ahead.
Head Coach Guy Carbonneau called the incident “deplorable” and something you never like to hear about, but he said he has to get the Canadiens ready to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
“We are in 2008, it’s not the first year something like this has happened,” Carbonneau said. “The two players were not suspended but I haven’t decided yet if they will play against Tampa Bay. We met with them to hear their version. We wanted to know the truth.
“It’s too bad, but at least no one got hurt.”
O’Byrne had just been recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League and had been part of the rookie dinner, a tab he split with fellow rookies Sergei Kostitsyn and Carey Price.