A former Victoria Salmon Kings hockey player has been found not guilty of assault causing bodily harm in connection to an on-ice fight.
Judge Michael Hubbard said Thursday the verdict in the case against Robin Gomez, 27, should not be interpreted as an approval of the level of violence in hockey.
Gomez was charged after a fight during a home game in March 2008. Chris Ferraro, who plays with the Las Vegas Wranglers, alleged that Gomez sucker-punched him, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ice.
Ferraro required eight stitches to the back of his head and testified in court that his injuries included a moderate concussion and Bell's palsy, a temporary paralysis of the left side of his face, for five weeks. He said he still has problems with his left eye and ear.
The judge said hockey would be a better game without fighting, but with the current league rules players do consent to some level of violence.
Gomez told reporters outside the provincial courthouse in Victoria that he would not change the way he plays the game.
"I feel that I've been punished enough through my suspension and fine … I definitely didn't want it to come to this," he said.
"If this judgment went the other way, I'd have to retire because I'd be in court the rest of my life. I mean, it can't change the way I play hockey ... I've not apologized for it and I'm not about to apologize for it."
Lawyer Jordan Watt said he and his father Alexander Watt teamed up to defend Gomez for free because they are passionate about hockey.
He said assault cases involving hockey players are a grey area of the law and each case is dependent upon its individual facts.
Ferraro testified that he didn't see the punch coming as Gomez hit him when he stepped onto the ice from the players' bench.
During his testimony, Gomez told the judge that fighting is part of hockey and that Ferraro was verbally taunting him as he skated by the Salmon Kings bench.
Gomez was suspended by the league following the incident and is no longer a member of the Salmon Kings.
He said he's still hoping a team will add him to their roster, and believes he can play hockey professionally for another year or two.