Ontario youth hockey player charged after stick-swinging incident

A male youth has been charged with assault with a weapon following an alleged altercation during a hockey game in southwestern Ontario.

Police allege 'assault was intentional, and unrelated to the play in the game'

A male youth has been charged with assault with a weapon following an alleged stick-swinging incident during a hockey game in southwestern Ontario.

Late Wednesday, provincial police said its Middlesex County detachment investigated an incident brought to its attention this month. A young player allegedly approached another player from behind and hit that person in the helmet with a hockey stick.

In a news release, police said "the assault was intentional, and unrelated to the play in the game."

No injuries were reported.

OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor, a spokesman for the police force, said the "attack from behind" could have led to injury, had the circumstances been slightly different.

"The helmet was damaged and certainly there could have been very serious injury, had the helmet been on loosely or inappropriately and there had been contact with the hockey stick to the head or any other part of the body," he told CBC News in a telephone interview.

The age of the accused isn't in the news release outlining the incident and charge. Police also haven't named the teams or arena.

The young player cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, police said.

Ontario Provincial Police are reminding hockey players "to conduct themselves properly while engaged in sport," noting that charges are possible when the behaviour displayed amounts to an alleged criminal offence.

Not the 1st youth incident

It's rare for charges to be laid against young hockey players involved in violent actions on the ice, but it has happened. 

An OPP spokesperson told CBC News it doesn't know how many charges have been laid in the province, as the force doesn't keep those statistics.

There have been a handful of incidents across the country involving hockey players in the last seven years:

  • In 2014, a youth court judge in Alberta granted a teen hockey player a six-month conditional discharge for spearing another player during a game in Edmonton.
  • Also in 2014, in February, two 12-year-old hockey players were arrested and charged assault with a weapon in connection with a violent game in Winnipeg.
  • In 2008, a Victoria Salmon Kings hockey player was charged after a fight during a home game. It was alleged he sucker-punched a player, causing him to fall and hit his head on the ice. The accused was found not guilty of assault causing bodily harm.
  • In 2007, a hockey brawl between eight-year-old players broke out in a game between the Duffield Devils and Niagara Falls Thunder novice AAA at a tournament in Guelph. After a police investigation, no charges were laid but several coaches were suspended — one for three years — following the incident.

Rektor said officers are called upon "more often than people are aware of" to investigate incidents at hockey games.

"Not only for player-versus-player, but often times dealing with unruly fans. Sometimes those fans are the parents that fight with each other in the stands," he said.

"So, you know, this is the mentality of some of the people that attend these events. And we want to make it really clear that these are sporting events and they are to be enjoyable. And any types of criminality will not be tolerated and they'll be investigated."

With files from the CBC's Gary Ennett