Cormier to appeal suspension over vicious hit
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:10PM EST
It turns out Patrice Cormier will appeal a season-long suspension handed down by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for a vicious elbow to the head of an opponent.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies said Tuesday they will appeal their player’s suspension for the hit on Quebec Remparts defenceman Mikael Tam during a Jan. 17 game.
Coach and general manager Andre Tourigny called the suspension, which includes the regular season and the playoffs, excessive.
"He could serve up to 48 games, that's too much," Tourigny said in a conference call.
Cormier read a short statement to The Canadian Press later Tuesday saying: "I respect the decision of the QMJHL even if I find it too severe. I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and I wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for your attention."
He did not take questions on the matter.
Earlier, it appeared Cormier accepted the suspension, after his statement was released to the media.
"I fully respect the Quebec Major Junior League's decision regarding the Mikael Tam incident," Cormier said in the earlier statement, released by his Halifax-based agent Tim Cranston. "I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery."
The hit caused Tam to have convulsions. He later spent two days in hospital with head trauma before returning to Quebec City last week.
After the league handed the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies player his suspension on Monday, he had five days to contest the ruling.
Lack of respect
The incident put hockey violence under the microscope of the media and sparked outrage among fans and hockey insiders -- something the president of Hockey Canada said is a problem for the sport.
Bob Nicholson said the incident is indicative of a lack of respect in today's game, and suggested officials may have to consider suspending coaches for the violent behaviour of their players.
Nicholson said hits to the head have no place in hockey, and he’s satisfied the QMJHL decided to suspend Cormier for the regular and playoff seasons.
“We cannot have this type of situation, these head checks, in hockey at any level of the game,” the Hockey Canada president told Canada AM Tuesday from Calgary. “This is certainly out of character for Patrice, but what he did, we can’t have it in the game of hockey.”
Roy MacGregor, a Globe and Mail columnist and author of several hockey books, said the NHL needs to address the issue of hits to the head.
“Why does (the NHL) not address the issue of hits to the head when we have all the scientific evidence that brains are being turned into pudding by such hits,” he told CTV News Channel Tuesday afternoon.
MacGregor says that as the top professional league the NHL sets the tone for what is acceptable in minor and junior leagues.
He added that many parents are keeping their children out of hockey because of violence in the game.
Cormier's punishment is the third long-term suspension handed down in major junior hockey this season. Last week, the Ontario Hockey League suspended Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian for 20 games for a hit he levelled against Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts. And last fall, the OHL told Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas that he would be sitting out the regular season and the playoffs for a hit from behind on Kitchener's Ben Fanelli.
Nicholson says the Canadian Hockey League and other leagues have really come down hard recently with such hits, “and hopefully that’ll be a message to Canadian Hockey League and all levels of hockey in our country.”
But the head of the governing body of hockey in Canada says he’s worried that may be not enough to stop these kinds of checks.
“I think we’ve really lost some respect in the game. That’s player-to-player and player-to-coach. And we really have to get that back in,” Nicholson said. “That’s why we need really strong suspensions in these situations. We can’t have that. We want young boys and girls to play this game and we have to clean up this situation.”
He added that coaches need to take responsibility for how their players check others, by teaching them what’s allowed and what’s not.
“And if we can’t get the message through to coaches and players with these types of suspensions, maybe we have to look at suspending coaches along the way,” he warned.
Cormier’s QMJHL suspension remains indefinite, pending an investigation by its head disciplinarian, Raymond Bolduc.
Although Cormier was a second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2008 draft, and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the team last summer, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said the team would respect the QMJHL ruling.
"We will honour the league's suspension, have not considered, and will not explore other avenues for his return this season," Lamoriello said in a statement.
But the GM also made clear the incident will not hurt Cormier's position in the organization’s long-term plans.
"This unfortunate incident does not reflect the character of the Patrice Cormier we know," Lamoriello said. "We trust that Patrice will have learned a valuable lesson that will serve him well when he returns to hockey as a valued player in our organization."
With files from The Canadian Press