An Ottawa judge has set a dangerous precedent by convicting a recreational hockey player of assault for an incidental hit, according to the defendant’s lawyer.
Gordon MacIsaac, 31, was sentenced Wednesday to probation of 18 months after a rare criminal conviction for an on-ice collision in March 2012 with Drew Casterton, now 31.
The two men played in the Ottawa Senior Men's Hockey League, a recreational non-contact league. Non-contact leagues ban bodychecking, but incidental contact is common.
As a result of the hit, Casterton was knocked unconscious. The trial heard he suffered serious physical effects and a loss of income.
Ontario Court Justice Diane Lahaie convicted MacIsaac of aggravated assault, and on Wednesday, she ordered him to pay Casterton $5,000.
MacIsaac’s lawyer, Patrick McCann, said the decision could have a major effect on the way hockey is played.
"If I were advising my son to play hockey, I would say, 'Stay away.' All kinds of stuff can happen. Even playing shinny on an outdoor rink, stuff like this can happen," said McCann.
Collision was accidental, lawyer argues
"The problem is when you start getting the law involved in these kinds of things, it really does create a very chilling effect for people that play the game."
McCann argues the contact was not intentional, but accidental, so his client should never have been found guilty.
"You have people playing in a recreational league and sometimes it gets a little intense and two players collide," the lawyer said.
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McCann said the case pitted Casterton’s teammates against his client’s teammates, which created a clear divide in how the hit was viewed.
"The players on the side of the complainant saw it as a nasty, vicious hit. Players on the side of Mr. MacIsaac saw it as incidental contact between two players skating fast," McCann said.
As a result, Lahaie relied on the testimony from the one referee who took the stand, according to McCann, whose testimony ultimately led to the conviction.
Casterton is also suing MacIsaac and the non-contact league for $600,000.
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