In Canada, a 17-year-old juniors hockey player suffered one of the most painful looking injuries in recent memory, leaving him with a broken jaw that required surgery and will sideline him for as many as six weeks. Now the question is when the 19-year-old who inflicted the injury upon him will get a chance to return to the ice himself, a process which has solicited the kind of debates and inspection of video footage that is more often reserved for a criminal trial.
As covered in great detail by Prep Rally’s brotherly Canadian hockey blog Buzzing the Net, 17-year-old Halifax Mooseheads defenseman Brian Lovell suffered a fractured jaw during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game between the Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats. The Moncton player who was responsible for damage was 19-year-old Ross Johnston, a forward who hit Lovell in the face with his stuck after swinging it with two hands.
There is no debate that Johnston struck Lovell with a violent action almost akin to a killing move out of The Hunger Games. The question was whether he intended to do so at all. As captured on video, Johnston’s stick was caught in between the boards, pulled hard to free his offensive implement and then connected with the jaw of Lovell, who was just getting up off the ice after losing his balance while tussling with Johnston.
While no penalty was called in the immediate aftermath of the nasty blow, the QMJHL wasted little time in handing down a suspension after the fact, sending Johnston to the Moncton bench indefinitely while the league determines his culpability.
No one thinks that Johnston’s penalty should be permanent. Still, as a 19-year-old he is as old as plenty of other full-fledged professional athletes. He could be playing in the NHL as soon as fall 2013 (though that seems unlikely) and he needs to be reticent of his actions.
Yet what if Johnston’s contact really was entirely accidental? What if the winger was just trying to release his stick? Then matters become a bit less clear-cut. Should Johnston have to sit out just because he accidentally inflicted an injury on a foe that will sideline him for the rest of the season?
Clearly, that seems harsh.
For his part, Johnston has yet to issue any kind of official statement about the incident, even though plenty of talking heads in the Canadian junior hockey world have parped up about it, particularly on Twitter (what a surprise!). You can see the best collection of those assorted tweets at Buzzing the Net.
For Lovell, the injury means an untimely end to a suddenly blossoming first season in the QMJHL. The teenager had just scored his first goal of the season one game before the sudden jaw injury led to the rather bloated face you see above, as he tweeted out himself.