Cormier haunted by vicious hit

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:01 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It was a split-second decision that could dog Patrice Cormier for the rest of his hockey career.

“I regret it,” the Winnipeg Jets hopeful said Saturday after practice at the MTS IcePlex. “When I sit there and think about it, I always think ‘What could I do to change those five seconds or even one second.’ But I can’t, so it’s not worth it.”

In January of 2010, Cormier was on top of the hockey world, coming off a stint as captain of Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship and just starting out a playoff run with a new team after being traded from the Rimouski Oceanic to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.

In just his third game with Rouyn-Noranda, everything went horribly wrong and there was nobody to blame but Cormier himself.

Just 19 at the time, Cormier threw a wicked elbow while skating through the neutral zone and sent Quebec Remparts player Mikael Tam to the hospital with a severe head injury. It was so vicious that Tam was left convulsing on the ice and the Remparts filed a criminal complaint.

In October of 2010, Cormier pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm and received an unconditional discharge. Tam recovered and was back on the ice by the end of the 2009-10 season.

“A lot more people know me right now because of that,” Cormier said, by no means bragging.

Cormier was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs and within a month, his NHL rights had been traded from the New Jersey Devils (who drafted him 54th overall in 2008) to the Atlanta Thrashers, as part of a deal for superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.

Since then he has played just 32 games, including 11 with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and 21 with the Thrashers last year. He had a goal and an assist in the NHL and two goals and three assists at the AHL level.

Finishing the year with the Thrashers leaves him hopeful that he’ll break camp with the Jets this year, but he’s taking nothing for granted.

“Last year if I would have played 20 more games it would have been helpful but I didn’t,” said Cormier, who battled several injuries last season. “So in the summer I worked hard to be ready for this camp and I’d do anything to be here this year.”

“If I’m 100%, I think I can be a good contributor.”

Cormier insists he hasn’t changed his style of play since the frightening incident in Quebec.

“It’s behind me,” he said. “It didn’t change my career at all, it didn’t change the way I play.

“You can’t really dwell on that incident because that’s the past. Mikael is fine and back playing, I’m back playing, so it’s good.”


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