Game attack nets guilty plea

JANE SIMS -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

First, Julia Tropea's cross-check slammed into the front of Carly Bernard's head, knocking her to the ice.

Play stopped. Bernard, then 18, was sprawled on the ice.

Without warning, Tropea kicked the injured London Devilette on the top of her helmet with the toe of her skate.

This inexplicable hockey violence found its way to a London court yesterday almost two years later -- but with legal questions surrounding what punishment is warranted.

That decision won't be made until Jan. 23, when Ontario Court Justice Ted McGrath will review a pre-sentence report and hear Bernard's victim impact statement.

Tropea, 22, pleaded not guilty yesterday to assault with a weapon and guilty to simple assault.

The Feb. 12, 2005, incident has left Bernard with lingering injuries.

The young woman, who sat in the courtroom with her parents, had a scholarship to study nursing science.

Those plans, said assistant Crown attorney Peter Rollings, had to be abandoned while she needed ongoing brain injury treatment for pain and headaches.

Rollings told McGrath, who used to coach hockey, the women were in a tournament at the Western Fair sports complex. Bernard's Devilettes were playing Tropea's Niagara Falls Rapids in an Intermediate A game.

Rollings said a referee reported the game was going on without incident until the second period, when Bernard fell on a Niagara Falls player, then prevented her from getting up.

The referee signalled a delayed penalty to London for unsportsmanlike conduct.

But before play was stopped, Tropea came across the ice, cross-checked Bernard, then kicked her.

Bernard had to be helped off the ice and was taken to the hospital by her father.

Tropea also was taken from the ice by a linesman and assessed a cross-checking penalty, game misconduct and match misconduct.

The linesman heard Tropea say to another London player she would "kick the (expletive) out of you, too."

Bernard was examined at hospital, then released.

Within days, Rollings said, she was suffering "agonizing pain" throughout her body and particularly in her jaw.

Further medical examinations showed she had a jaw dislocation and needed to wear an appliance 24 hours a day to avoid surgery.

Persistent headaches led to a CAT scan, an MRI and a diagnosis of a potential concussion.

She continues to have problems with her memory and organizational skills.

Defence lawyer Andy Rady said his client, a student in Niagara Falls, has been co-operative.

She was suspended by the league and has not played hockey since.

Outside the courtroom, Bernard, now 20, said she hasn't played hockey since she was injured.

While she continues to make good strides to a recovery and plans to return to school, her doctors say her injury has made her vulnerable and she shouldn't strap on skates again, because it's too dangerous.

"It really has affected my life," Bernard said.


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