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Mass. hockey parents want teen charged with criminal assault for violent hockey hit

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In an extreme step toward trying to enforce safer prep hockey at any cost, a Massachusetts family is attempting to have a teenager who delivered a dangerous hit on their son on the rink charged with assault and battery.

As first reported by the Quincy Patriot Ledger, and brought to Prep Rally's attention by Deadspin, the parents of Duxbury (Mass.) High senior Tucker Hannon will see Scituate (Mass.) High hockey player Alex Way in court on Friday when the Hannons and their family lawyer will attempt to have Way formally brought up on formal assault and battery charges. The legal challenge is related to a hit Way delivered on Hannon after the Duxbury player fired a shot in a January game between the schools in Rhode Island.

You can see the check as it occurred in the video above.

"If this [check] was off the rink, on a public way, that is gross, negligent assault and battery,"  Jay Mullen, the attorney representing Thomas and Sheila Hannon, told the Patriot Ledger.

The issue, of course, is that the hit itself came in the midst of a competitive hockey game. For their part, the Hannons claim they only wanted Way to apologize to Hannon for the dangerous hit, or to have Scituate suspend him for two games. The Scituate coaching staff allegedly didn't respond to the Hannons' request for one of those outcomes to occur, leading to the current legal challenge.

[Explosive sports feuds: Who hasn't been able to keep their cool recently?]

However, the reason why Scituate officials didn't respond to the Hannons' threat is because they feel that Way -- a decorated, three-sport athlete and National Honor Society student who will attend elite Williams College in fall 2012 -- didn't do anything wrong by making contact with Hannon in the way that he did.

"[Way's check was] a good clean hit," Scituate hockey coach Mike Breen told the Patriot Ledger. "He's just not a kid that would go out to hurt anyone. He's a real nice, polite kid."

There is no doubt that the hit itself had drastic effects on Hannon's ability to continue in school as normal. The senior missed the final two weeks of his high school hockey career with post concussion syndromes, and spent five weeks out of school to avoid direct light, which can exacerbate the symptoms of post concussion syndrome. The younger Hannon said that he was still experiencing painful headaches as recently as Wednesday.

While the case is believed to be the first attempt to criminalize an amateur hockey hit, the practice is certainly not novel in the professional ranks. In recent months, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara became the latest NHL star to be subjected to a criminal investigation for a check he delivered to a Montreal Canadiens opponent.

Making the matter even more unique is that Way would appear to be precisely the person to avoid trying to give anyone else a concussion because he suffered a significant one himself during the Scituate football season. Way's mother said that they never even considered pressing charges after that concussion because they knew the risks of competing in a contact sport.

That opinion seems to be echoed by officials from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association as well.

"With or without a penalty called during the game, a criminal complaint [stemming from a high school play] is really unheard of," MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel said.

Whether the skepticism of Wetzel and the entire Scituate camp wins out over the Hannons' criminal complaint remains to be seen. Either way, the incident is guaranteed to conclude without a happy ending: One teenager has suffered an inordinate amount of pain for a check which occurred in a sporting event, and another teenager's reputation may now be tainted by accusations that he intentionally targeted an opponent with the aim to injure him.

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