Season ban was league's only choice

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

It was really the only suspension the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League could hand down.

Anything less would have been an affront to the victim, the game itself and fans of the game.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward Patrice Cormier was suspended for the balance of the season and the playoffs by the QMJHL on Monday.

The suspension stems from Cormier, 19, deliberately elbowing Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts in the head. The attack sent Tam into convulsions on the ice. He was taken to hospital with brain trauma and broken teeth.

It’s unfortunate that not more could have been done to punish a hit that was nothing short of criminal.

It’s the latest in a line of cheap, predatory shots which have placed hockey in an unfavourable light.

Earlier this year, the OHL suspended Erie Otters forward Michael Liambas for the remainder of this season and playoffs after Liambas nailed Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli against the boards, leaving the 16-year-old with a fractured skull and orbital bone and in critical condition in hospital.

Late last week, the OHL suspended Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian 20 games for his hit on Barrie Colts forward Matt Kennedy.

Will the message finally sink in?

One would have hoped that it would have sunk in with the Liambas suspension.

Obviously, it didn’t.

Will Cormier’s suspension prove any different?

It should.

Cormier is a high-profile junior hockey player. He was captain of Canada’s silver-medal winning national junior team. He was supposed to be a major piece of the puzzle in Rouyn-Noranda’s push for a QMJHL title. Although he’s actions didn’t show it, he was more than just a player brought in for his punching ability.

Leagues have a tendency to go a little easier on elite players.

In this case though, the statement made was without recognition of class. You commit the crime; you do the time.

When you combine a high-profile player with the viciousness of the attack, this incident was off the charts when it came to national exposure. Hockey’s warts were obvious to all.

That type of exposure is bad for business and image. Hockey can explain away why it happened but it can no longer explain away why it does nothing to prevent it from happening again.

This will happen again. There is always someone, somewhere who stops thinking and allows some sort of primeval adrenaline to take over. But the gold standard has been set.

The real hope is that these set of suspensions will at the least cause some sober second thoughts, not only among the players who play the game but also along team owners, managers and coaches.

For the players, that second thought may come as they are about to run an individual when he’s facing the boards or just as they are about to lay an elbow into someone’s face after they’ve delivered a pass.

The thought of sitting out 20 games or 30 games or an entire season may cause the player to veer away or bring the elbow down. That fleeting second may save an unsuspecting player.

As for team management, ownership and coaches, it is their responsibility to remind players about self-discipline and self-control.

They may want to remind themselves of how this lack of discipline can hurt their team.

Cormier and Jordan Caron were sent from Rimouski to Rouyn-Noranda in a blockbuster deal. Those two players cost the Huskies Michael Beaudry, winger Alexandre Mallet, three first-round picks and a second-round pick.

It was a stiff price to pay for a guy who will only play three games for them.

It is time that not only the player but those who guide him be held responsible for the actions on the ice.

In the long release dealing with Cormier’s suspension, QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau hinted as much.

“But, regardless of the rules or the support systems we offer, as the game’s principal actors (the players) are responsible for their actions. As such, they must be held accountable as do the coaches who lead them,” Courteau said.

Amen to that.


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