Hockey hit leads to cop probe
Ottawa team at receiving end of two brutal checks
AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency
|A trainer checks out Kanata Stallions goalie Scott Shackell after a collision with a Cornwall Colts player during Game 3 of their CHL Tier 1 palyoffs series Sunday in Cornwall. Shackell was knocked out of the game, which the Colts won 7-1. Robert Lefebvre/icelevel.com
It’s vicious, it’s predatory, and it may just be criminal.
Police are launching a criminal investigation into at least one on-ice incident during a playoff game Sunday between the host Cornwall Colts and the Kanata Stallions of the Tier 1 Central Hockey League.
League commissioner Kevin Abrams said suspensions are pending, and a copy of the game film is on its way to Cornwall police, who opened an investigation after receiving an assault complaint Sunday night.
The game’s emotionally-charged tone was set 57 seconds in when Stallions goaltender Scott Shackell was knocked out with a concussion on a play Kanata coach Adam Dewan said was premeditated.
“This is the third time it has happened this year,” said a disgusted Dewan Monday morning, referring to a Nov. 11 game where Shackell was concussed by a Cornwall player. Dewan said Shackell also suffered a minor knee injury when he was targeted during a playoff game on Friday, where the goaltender was key in making 61 saves and earning a victory against the heavily-favoured Colts.
“Somebody is planning this,” said Dewan.
Click here to watch the YouTube video of the hit on Shackell.
But as bad as that play was, it pales in comparison to what happened next.
With the scoreboard reading 7-1 Cornwall and with just over seven minutes left to play, 19-year-old Colts defenceman Matthew Zanardo — apparently upset at taking a bump from Stallions’ forward Brandon Bussey — stalked the 18-year-old around the ice, and when the smaller forward, who gives up eight inches and 25 pounds to Zanardo, declined an invitation to brawl, Zanardo delivered a gloved punch to the back of Bussey’s head as he attempted to skate away.
The confrontation didn’t end there.
Footage shows the 6-foot-6 Zanardo jabbing the blade of his stick toward the prone forward’s face, and as Bussey attempts to get to his feet, and before officials can intervene, Zanardo delivers another blow — this time a two-handed crosscheck that catches Bussey squarely in the back of the neck and leaves him face-first on the ice.
“It’s a pretty big cheap shot,” said Bussey, who wasn’t seriously injured on the play. “It all happened so fast, but now watching (the clip) it’s pretty scary.”
Zanardo, who was penalized for spearing and tossed from the game, had just returned from serving another suspension.
Click here for the YouTube video of the hit on Bussey.
The incident comes as NHL general managers are meeting in Florida with hits to the head topping the agenda.
But while the NHL recently ruled against punishing Zdeno Chara for his devastating hit on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, the Cornwall incident is drawing closer comparisons to the March 2004 sucker punch then-Vancouver Canucks star Todd Bertuzzi delivered to the head of Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore, a widely-publicized incident and subsequent police investigation that sent shockwaves around the sporting world and ended Moore’s professional career.
“I may be in the minority that disagrees that its okay to ram a player’s head into the glass and consider it part of the game as happened recently (in Montreal),” said Abrams. “Clearly the (Bertuzzi incident) had tragic consequences and thankfully no such tragedy has occurred here or anywhere else since.”
-- With files from Jamie Long