The verdict in an assault case, not to play lawyer, depends on weighing the act and the damage done.
That's what's going to make it interesting now that former Canadian world junior captain Patrice Cormier is facing a charge of assault causing injury for his elbow on Mikael Tam during a Rouyn-Noranda Huskies-Quebec Remparts game game in January.
Cormier, who missed the rest of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season due to suspension, could receive a sentence of up to 18 months.
(Here's the hit again. To be on the safe side, even though it's been four months and you likely saw it already, the footage might be disturbing to some viewers due to the graphic nature of the injury.
The interesting part is to wonder where Mikael Tam and the Quebec Remparts will fit into this now that is headed to a criminal court. Historically, the tendency for the hockey community has been to close ranks, insist the game can police itself. You saw that in the past, particularly in the Todd Bertuzzi and Marty McSorley cases.
It is one thing for Tam's coach, the Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy (who is also the Remparts general manager) to have called for the law to get involved right after he saw an 18-year-old player go into convulsions on the ice. Tam, who's currently undrafted by the NHL, might have concerns some hockey's old guard might hold this against him. However, people already know what he said after the Cormier elbow:
"While I was in the emergency room not realizing where I was or why I was there, I got scared, really scared. As I was regaining consciousness I felt an incredible thing. I remember wondering if I would ever walk again…Mostly I was scared that I would never get to play hockey again." (Globe & Mail, Jan. 25)
And it is possible, unlike past ugly incidents, there is no out, no way of blaming the victim, nothing that can be said about how Tam might have prevented it, the way people did after Todd Bertuzzi attacked Steve Moore in a NHL game in 2004, or after Roy's son, Remparts goalie Jonathan Roy, attacked Chicoutimi goalie Bobby Nadeau in a 2008 QMJHL game. (I have a major memory burn of one national columnist saying Nadeau was "standing there like a Nancy Boy.")
It wasn't a hockey play by any leap of imagination. The question is really if this was the catalytic event that causes hockey, and the general population, to realize the courts will have a place until the games cleans up its act. It bears repeating what Puck Daddy wrote in January:
" ... is the intrusion of law enforcement into the relatively lawless confines of a hockey rink the only viable way to send that magnitude of message to players? Even if previous court cases regarding hockey violence, from British Columbia to Swiss Federal court, clearly didn't deter Patrice Cormier for a millisecond from taking out Mikael Tam?
"We hope it hasn't come to that. We regret that it may have."
The measuring stick for that might be how it plays out for Mikael Tam.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.