Last night in a game in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec a junior player for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL was hospitalized & nearly killed. It wasnt from stopping a booming slap shot, or in a 1 on 1 gloves off fight, it wasnt even from a clean or borderline clean hit. It was from a direct, intentional elbow to the head from a player charging across the ice with malice intent on his mind.
Mikael Tam, an 18 year old defenseman for the Remparts is currently in hospital with brain trauma & a broken jaw according to reports from various sports netowrks. He was rushed to hospital after spending several minutes on the ice having a convuslion after he received an elbow to the head from a player who only had got on the ice 2 seconds earlier, and whose first action was not to try & get into the play, but to beeline across the ice in full stride & deliver an elbow at full speed to this young kid. A kid who was not carrying the puck at the time (not that there is justification for the hit even then.).
The aggressor, Patrice Cormier, 19 year old centre for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Many of you may know Cormier as the captain of the 2009-10 silver medalist Team Canada World Junior Hockey team. These days he is playing for the Huskies after a recent trade from Rimouski, where he had played for the past 3 1/2 seasons. Cormier has a long history of shady hits & has grown a reputation as a dirty player.
In fact, just a month earlier, Cormier got lots of attention after hitting Swedish team member, Anton Rodin with an elbow in an exhibition game before the Worlds. It was, just like last nights incident, only not as severe. It was again on a player without the puck and intentional. A couple nights later he hit a Finnish player, away from the play near the bench for no reason other than he was there.
This player continues to play "over the edge" and last nights action was possibly the worst of them all. In a 2-2 game in overtime, Cormier came off the bench & went full speed across the ice & raised his elbow up into the head of an unsuspecting Tam who was not carrying the puck at the time of the hit. Cormier was on the ice for less than 2 seconds at the time of the attack. It wasnt 40 seconds into a shift on a player actively in the play, it was clearly intentional & done with considerable malice to an unsuspecting player who was not immediately in the play. His intention with the hit was to injure, and if he ever says differently, he is a bold faced liar.
In hockey there is expectations a player goes in with, and that is to be physically tested some. You even expect some questionable play from time to time. Plays that go a little beyond the typical minor infractions that penalties are called on. This was clearly not one of them. This is above & beyond what a player "expects" in a typical game environment.
The term "keep your head up" is often sung loud by the cement headed neanderthals who clearly have never played a second of hockey and cherish UFC & bar fights as much as their mullets and the fact they havent gone back to get their GED 10 years after being kicked out of school. The type who thinks this ideology is a justification for any play short of a baseball swing with a stick to the head. The term has its just place in the game, no question. But there is a point where that term is not relevant, and this is one of those cases. You can not justify a player skating across the ice at full speed less than 2 seconds after getting on the ice & elbowing a player without the puck as acceptable under the "keep your head up" code. This player should not be expecting any imminent attack from anyone. The puck was nowhere near him.
Patrice Cormier SHOULD be banned for life from all hockey leagues. He SHOULD be, but he wont. Unfortunately, there are leagues that will give him a chance because he is truly talented. A near point per game player in the Q, Cormier is a 2nd round NHL draft pick of the New Jersey Devils. It is naive to believe he will get banned from playing in the AHL or even the NHL if he is good enough to be there someday because of his actions in the Q. With various minor pro leagues & European leagues around as well, its a sure thing he will be employed as a hockey player somewhere eventually. Which is sad. Sad for the team that will sign him & not take into consideration the safety of others. Sad for the sport of hockey as a whole that his actions will be ignored by some.
What I expect to happen is, Cormier will be given a lifetime ban from the Canadian Hockey League, which really only adds up to a year & 1/2 ban at most. Of course the very real potential of criminal & civil action coming down on Cormier is a possibility. He absolutely should face charges. He should even be convicted for it. I am not saying "lock him up & throw away the key" type of charges. But it needs to be on his record, if for no other reason but as a safety net in case he recklessly does something like this again. He also should face a severe civil penalty to Mikael Tam and perhaps even the Remparts and the QMJHL for the damage inflicted on them as well. The Remparts are without one of their players and the league is facing a serious black eye in the media.
As for Mikael Tam. Right now, his immediate health is first & foremost for him & his family. The idea of whether or not he will play hockey again should not even be discussed right now by his family, friends, team mates, the media or you & I. Its irrelevant at a time like this. Hoping the kid doesnt have any long term physical problems because of this hit is first. If he comes out of it relatively fine on that front, THEN, and ONLY then does the idea of "will he play ever again?" should be discussed.
Patrice Cormier. You are a disgrace to hockey. A disgrace to Team Canada. A disgrace to Canadians. You should be shunned by your team mates, fans & other leagues. If there is any justice, we will never see you in a hockey game anywhere ever again. Your style of play has no place in any league.
Mikael Tam. I can honestly say I dont believe I had ever heard of you before this incident. I dont follow the Q too closely compared to other leagues. You certainly did not deserve what happened to you & any resentment you hold towards Cormier is likely just. All I have to say, good luck in your recovery and get well soon.
**WARNING**- video contains disturbing images. Including Tam having his convulsion.
The first minute is not relevant to the play.