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Splash's Ruotolo Suspended After Walking Out on Team

September 11, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Embattled midfielder Raffaele Ruotolo, who walked out on the Splash over the weekend, has been suspended by the team for the rest of the season. He vows he won't return as long as General Manager Don Ebert is associated with the team.

Ebert joined the coaching staff last week in Seattle for a three-game, four-day trip in which the team lost two of three games.

"[Ian Fulton] was the only coach in the league who didn't have help on the bench, and that was a mistake I made," said Ebert, a two-time indoor all-star and rookie of the year. "I wasn't about to hire someone who hasn't been around the team."

Ruotolo, who had had uneasy dealings with Ebert since Ebert was hired after the team's sale, said he reached his breaking point Friday in Portland when he was taken off the power-play unit, which converted only 31.3% of its chances (down from 71.9% last year). After arguing with Ebert, Ruotolo played sparingly in a 4-3 victory.

Afterward, during an intense, impromptu team meeting, Ebert said he asked if "anybody has a problem with what's going on, if there's someone who doesn't want to play, you tell me now." At that point, Ruotolo responded, apparently putting an end to a career in which he was the franchise's second all-time leading scorer (89 goals, 86 assists).

Ruotolo (nine goals, eight assists this year) flew with the team to Sacramento, then flew home before a 9-6 loss to the Knights.

"As long as [Ebert's] involved here, I don't want to be part of it," Ruotolo said. "If new owners come in and replace Ebert, I'd definitely come back."

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