The Blind Side

August 15, 2014
Close up view of hockey stick and puck

A recent court decision involving an incident in a senior men’s recreational hockey League in Ottawa caught my attention. The incident involved two players who collided behind the net in this non-contact league. One player was knocked unconscious by the hit, sustaining physical injuries and as a result, some loss of income.  He charged the other player with assault. After hearing the evidence from both sides, the judge in the case convicted the defendant of aggravated assault and handed down a sentence of probation for 18 months and $5,000 in damages to be paid to the plaintiff.

This caught my attention in part because it is rare for the courts to rule on incidents that happen within a sporting event. But what really drew my attention was the reaction to the judge’s decision by the defendant’s lawyer. He warned that a decision against the defendant will discourage people from playing recreational hockey. Really!?  I would have thought just the opposite.  The judge is sending a clear signal to the sport that reckless use of force will not be tolerated by the courts, even if it happens in the confines of a hockey game. So if people sign up for senior non-contact hockey, they can have more confidence they won’t be the victim of what the judge described in this case, upon hearing all of the evidence, as a “deliberate blindside hit.”