Canucks and Beyond

Hockey and the Police

03/05/2008 at 6:29pm EST

The Vancouver Canucks ECHL affiliate, the Victoria Salmon Kings, have managed to end up in a police situation because of this incident:

Robin Gomez of the Victoria Salmon Kings has been suspended indefinitely by the ECHL after he punched Chris Ferraro, a star forward for the Las Vegas Wranglers, and knocked him to the ice during a game at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre last Saturday.

Ferraro hit the back of his head on the ice, causing a gash that produced a large pool of blood. The cut required eight stitches to close, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Obviously not the first time professional hockey in BC ends up the focus of a police investigation (flashback to Brashear/McSorley, Moore/Bertuzzi).

So how does a police department investigate an on-ice incident?

Sgt. Grant Hamilton says “We look at a number of factors such as intent, and whether this was outside the normal scope of a game.”

That’s a tall order. I’m not even sure Colin Campbell’s office—with all its hockey experts—does the greatest job of figuring this stuff out. No disrespect to the police, but can they be experts at establishing ‘intent’ in a sporting match?

It’s possible to have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, you’d probably never see another intentional hit to the head if you were willing to send a guy to jail for it. But on the other hand, there’s a whole lot of dangerous hockey that is never intentionally dirty, yet can occasionally have terrible consequences.

This particular incident isn’t looking all that accidental, however.

The episode occurred in the second period of the game, which Las Vegas won 5-4. Gomez came off the bench and surprised Ferraro with a hard punch to the face that knocked him to the ice.

Ferraro told the Review-Journal he is in pain from the neck up. He was scheduled to see a neurologist yesterday.

“It was the most cowardly thing I’ve ever seen in my entire hockey career,” he told the newspaper.

I’m sure the police will do their best to establish what happened, and will either file charges or they won’t.

But one day it might be something we don’t expect being investigated.

For the sake of argument, imagine a situation where Jack Johnson’s hit on Ryan Smyth last weekend might end up on a police blotter for some reason, if someone pushed a complaint. And it’s that kind of incident that’s going to make criminalizing on-ice situations very complicated.

From the point of view of most hockey fans (as far as I can tell) that was a clean hit with a terrible, unintended result. But from the point of view of a police investigation, was taking Smyth into that particular juncture of the boards a deliberate act?

I’m not saying that they would say that, but I can see how it could all get pretty murky.

Anyway, that’s my random thought for the day. So, hockey players, behave yourselves. :)

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