October 19, 2010
Former Team Canada captain Patrice Cormier spared himself the stress of having a criminal charge hanging over his head during his first pro season.
The Atlanta Thrashers prospect has pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm in connection with a brutal elbow on Mikaël Tam during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game last season. (Puck Daddy has some thoughts, too.) The big take-home, reading between the lines, is perhaps it sunk in the justice system in Quebec is not going to back off on laying charges in connection with hockey violence.
"Cormier's guilty plea is an about-face. Last month, his lawyer pleaded not guilty on his behalf.
"Cormier, whose NHL rights belong to the Atlanta Thrashers, made his first court appearance in Rouyn-Noranda Tuesday since being charged.
"His headshot delivered last January left Tam convulsing on the ice. Tam suffered brain trauma and damage to his teeth." (National Post)
Ideally, one would hope it would make leagues think twice about how to get through to players not to do something, for lack of a better word, dumb. A police record can be erased after three years for an unconditional discharge, but YouTube clips are virtually permanent.
Few people see Cormier as someone who was a rare two-time member of Team Canada and captained the squad in 2010. In many eyes, he is the one who lost his mind during the game between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Tam's Quebec Remparts in January. It probably will follow Cormier, who is currently on injured reserve with the Thrashers after breaking his foot in September, around for a few years to come.
The other lesson, perhaps one for everyone to take to heart, is not to be selective in our righteous indignation over a needless brutal hit. As Wysh noted in January:
"It's another debate that forever clouds this issue: The aesthetics of the aftermath vs. the incident that led to them. Take two identical hits; one doesn't cause a victim to miss a shift, the other results in a stretcher on the ice. Guess which one will earn a suspension?" (Puck Daddy, Jan. 19, 2010)
In one of those not-for-nothing coincidences, Cormier was in court the same day Slap Shots, The New York Times hockey blog, posted on a study by neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Comper that showed an alarming number of NHL concussions across a span of three-plus seasons were suffered by players who did not have the puck. Many hockey fans have probably seen the Cormier-on-Tam clip enough to know the latter had got rid of the puck when he was nailed.
"Comper and Hutchinson studied video of the 260 reported concussions sustained in the N.H.L. between October 2006 and January 2010 (that’s an average of about 75 per season, a figure confirmed by Dr. Ruben J. Echemendia, the N.H.L.’s chief neuropsychologist). Comper described some of their findings:
"About 44 percent of the players who sustained reported concussions were hit after having just released the puck (defined as having passed it within 0.3 seconds before the hit). Some 31 percent of concussed players did not have the puck at all when they were hit.
"Just 25 percent of concussed N.H.L.’ers had the puck when they were hit.
"The upshot: almost 75 percent of N.H.L. players who sustained a concussion were not expecting the hit because they did not have the puck." (Slap Shots)
That speaks to the need for an attitude adjustment in the greatest team sport going. The upshot, as The Times notes, is there have been "step(s) in the right direction." The NHL's new head-checking rule and measures adopted by the Ontario Hockey League, NCAA and International Ice Hockey Federation come to mind.
A step farther is calling out anything that crosses the line. In all honesty, it is hard to believe the court system collectively wants to be policing hockey rinks. Let's not give it a reason.
Most have probably seen the controversial play, but it is needed for context.
Tam, presuming that living well is good revenge, is doing just that with the Remparts, the lone club in the 60-team CHL which has yet to lose in regulation time or overtime.
The 19-year-old defenceman has nine points and a plus/minus of +12 in 12 games for Quebec (11-0-0-1). It doesn't threaten objectivity to say it's good to have some sign he is flourishing after the injury.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.