The parents of a 16-year-old hockey player are demanding criminal charges be filed against another boy who ripped their son’s helmet off and mercilessly pummeled his face and head.
The pounding was captured on video by the victim’s mother, Julie Major of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, who records all of her son Nick’s games.
“I felt, right from seeing it happen, my son has been assaulted,” Julie told CBC.
“We know that there is bodychecking and fighting in hockey, but this is an attack,” she told the Toronto Star. “There is a difference. There was a line overstepped.”
The boy’s father, Wes Major, said, “I’ve been watching hockey for 40 some years and I’ve never seen anything quite like this. I expected a long term suspension.”
“If this is part of hockey then we don’t want to be part of it,” added Wes. “I think that attitudes have to change.”
The game actually took place in January, and despite having the video evidence, police are still conducting their investigation.
“There were two teams involved that we have to interview and several spectators we are attempting to locate so that does take time,” Staff Sgt. Marci Shelton told the network.
According to reports, Nick’s team, the Woodstock Jr. Navy Vets, was winning 7-2 against the Brantford 99ers.
Nick then led a breakaway late in the game and raced toward the net, only to lose the puck. As he stopped in front of the goal, he sprayed ice into his face, commonly called “snowing the goalie.”
That didn’t sit well with a teammate of the goalie, who checked Nick from behind, then grabbed him, pulled his helmet off, and punched him relentlessly in the head – at least 10 times – before the linesman was able to pull him off.
“It happened so fast. There’s almost a sense of disbelief at what you are seeing,” Wes told CBC.
His wife added, “I’m not saying my son is perfect. I am saying this was extreme and very violent.”
Both boys were suspended for fighting, Nick for two games and the other boy for four, because it was his second fight of the season.
But the video revealed Nick had not actually fought back at any point during the onslaught.
After receiving the blows to his face, he was able to get up and skate back to the bench, suffering a broken nose, concussion, bruises and cuts.
The situation wasn’t completely defused, as taunts and insults from the other team reportedly continued even as Nick was being transported to the hospital.
“We had players in the parking lot yelling obscenities at our players and wanting to fight – and shockingly their parents were with them when they were behaving like this,” said Wes Major.
While police continue their probe, Julie Major indicated law enforcement told her that this was hockey, and injuries happen.
“Everyone has an opinion on this. And more so in the favor of that ‘it’s just part of the game,’” she said. “The [police] officer that called me [recently] told me that he was going to wrap things up soon and the injuries that my son suffered are common to the sport.”
“That’s the opinion of the police that keeps coming into my head – hockey is a gray area,” she continued. “I think when it comes to your child not being able to defend himself – he’s on his hands and knees and being thumped in the head 10 times – I do think that there is a difference.”
After seeing the video, the league canceled Nick’s suspension but it didn’t take any further action against the other boy. During his first game back on the ice – against the Woodstock team – the boy was penalized for checking to the head.
“At that point I felt like saying ‘I told you so’,” said Wes. “By not doing anything, by not having any supplementary discipline, it sent a message that this is acceptable.”
League officials are admitting that mistakes were made handling the case, but they’d rather see the matter stay on the ice instead of inside a courtroom.
“Our preference would be that these things are dealt with as hockey matters but I also get it that parents, if they feel that there was an assault situation, that they deal with it from that aspect,” Tony Martindale, executive director of Alliance Hockey, told the Star.
He puts the blame on “hockey culture.”
“We have to provide a safe environment for the players and the best way to do that is through coaching. That’s probably the best way to change that culture,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot that the administration of hockey can learn from something like this, that we, that there were some wrongs in the way this was handled.”
Julie Major insists incidents such as the severe pummeling of her son need to be harshly punished to act as a deterrent against future outbreaks.
“Obviously we want change so that they can recognize this when it happens and deal with it then, not five months later,” she told the Star. “I think the biggest thing is harsher consequences so that the kids will think twice before doing it.”