Winnipeg police are investigating after a brawl during a no-hit hockey game left one player with a broken jaw.
On Aug. 15, two recreation league teams were playing at the Canlan Ice Sports arena near the airport when a fight between about a dozen players broke out on the ice.
Player Chris Phillips was in the midst of it when a player on an opposing team jumped off the bench and clocked him in the jaw.
"I thought I got kicked in the face, and it felt like I was missing teeth or something. There was a lot of blood," he said. "There was a profuse amount of blood — the ice, the dressing room, the shower — everywhere."
Phillips said the blow felt like his head exploded.
Teammate John Sulyma said he was shocked to see it happen.
"In all the years I’ve played, I’ve never seen anything like that," said Sulyma. "Just the fact that this guy came off the bench, wasn’t even involved in the play, circled around and targeted a guy."
Phillips said he was scared and mad at the same time.
"It made me angry. It’s a really cowardly move," he said. "It was kind of scary. You’re occupied with who you’re wrestling with and then all of a sudden it felt like my head exploded."
He was rushed to hospital where he found out not only had he lost some teeth but his jaw was broken and had to be wired shut.
Now, Phillips is recovering at home on liquid painkillers and antibiotics.
Doctors expect Phillips will have to keep his jaw wired shut for about two months.
Officials with the Adults Safe Hockey League, which doesn’t allow hits or slapshots during games, said the player responsible for the hit has been given a lifetime suspension. Officials said they’re also helping police with their investigation.
Phillips said he knows the playing can lead to injuries — but he didn’t expect this.
"There’s an inherent risk when you play hockey. I’m fine with that," he said. "If you have the time to skate halfway down the ice and hit someone in a defenseless position, that’s not expected. That’s not hockey. I think it was a malicious attack."
The ASHL has been around since 1995 and now has about 80,000 registered players who play in 18 facilities in Canada and the United States.
Officials said the incident was isolated, and the league doesn’t tolerate body contact of any kind between players.
Phillips said he hopes the police investigation leads to a safer league for other players.
"It really shouldn’t happen to anyone else," he said. "You shouldn’t have to worry about this. This is beer league hockey."
Phillips said he isn’t sure if he’ll return to the ice. He said if he does, he might join a league for older players. "It’s too bad because I liked the competitiveness of this league," he said.
Officers have not yet said if any charges will be laid.