Ball hockey — it's just like ice hockey, except without all the GLIDIN' ... but there is the occasional assault thrown in.
Playing a version of hockey that most associate with playing on suburban streets or in parking lots competitively always seems just a little too intense, in a kind of over-the-top, off-putting way. Suffice to say, former QMJHL and ECHL player Justin Pender didn't disabuse anyone of that notion with his disgraceful behaviour in front of his hometown during Canada's semifinal loss to the Czech Republic at the World Ball Hockey Championship in St. John's, N.L., on the weekend.
The salacious stuff starts about two minutes into the video. With one second left, as the teams lined up for a meaningless faceoff after the Czechs tacked on the empty-netter in their 5-1 win, the 24-year-old Pender cross-checked and then began punching an opponent. The Czech goalie and an official also felt the Halifax Mooseheads alumnus' wrath. The ref, for his trouble, ended up in the hospital. Please keep in mind that's a man who likely needs two good legs to do his day job. There is also supposed to be no fighting in international ice hockey, never mind its concrete counterpart.
It is a shame that what had surely been a nice event in the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador was marred by a player losing control.
Pender ... was given a double match penalty with one second left after an incident that resulted in a game official being taken off the floor on a stretcher. The official was reportedly injured as he tried to intervene when Pender tangled with a Czech player after the winners scored an empty-net goal. Czech goaltender Lukas Heczko was also involved.
As for what will result, a posting on the world ball hockey championships Twitter site (@2013WBHC) read "A Canadian player acted violently towards another player. Referees will announce penalties and proper processes will be followed. Tournament will issue statement once that has occurred." (St. John's Telegram)
Pender, who was with the Mooseheads from 2005-09, just completed his fourth ECHL season as a defenceman with the Ontario Reign. The competitive zeal evidently isn't any different for him because it's ball hockey instead of pro hockey. Serious ball hockey players, after all, will dive across concrete to avoid going offside. Losing control in that way is definitely a black eye by association. Speaking optimistically, hopeful there's a way to put this right that doesn't involve the courts.
Canada's men's team ended up winning the bronze medal, with Slovakia beating the Czechs for gold in an all-Eastern Europe final. Canada's women's team won the gold.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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