New Trial Ordered for Ottawa Rec-League Hockey Player Convicted of Aggravated Assault
Summer is almost officially over; if you are a parent, that means it’s back to the routine of kids’ school and activities.
For many Canadian parents, it means a return to kids’ hockey, which has had its share of controversy in the past few years. Among many other things, the sport is criticized for its inherent violence, for attracting overzealous coaches and parents, and for implicitly fostering aggressive unsportsmanlike conduct in its young players.
But the criticisms levelled against non-professional adult hockey are no different.
Late last year, we wrote about a case called R. v. McIsaac, which involved the criminal conviction of an Ottawa adult recreational hockey player in a men’s no-contact league. He was convicted of aggravated assault after delivering an on-ice “blindside” hit to an opposing player in the last 47 seconds of the game. The other player suffered a major concussion, soft tissue neck and spine injuries, facial scars, and several broken teeth, and endured some permanent, debilitating injuries.
In a decision handed down this week, the Ontario Court of Appeal has granted the convicted player a new trial, on the basis that the trial judge had “improperly used [her] hockey sense to convict him”. In particular, the Appeal Court found that in making her ruling – and particularly in concluding that the play in question was an intentional, retaliatory blindside hit — the judge had made certain presumptions about hockey strategy. However, as the Court pointed out: “From the sports pages to social media, it is abundantly clear that reasonable Canadians often disagree about what constitutes a rational hockey strategy in a given situation.”
This amounted to what the Court of Appeal called “impermissible speculative reasoning” on the trial judge’s part, to the extent that she “appear[ed] to impose her personal knowledge of hockey on the facts of the case.”
For the full text of the decisions, see:
R. v. MacIsaac, 2015 ONCA 587 (CanLII)