Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Should Happen to Patrice Cormier?

If you haven't seen this video by now, brace yourself. It's ugly. The video below also includes some comments from Quebec Remparts coach Patrick Roy, the team Mikael Tam plays for in the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). The hit by Patrice Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies is one of the worst you'll ever see.

Cormier, the captain of Canada's silver-medal winning World Junior team, has been suspended indefinitely. There will be a hearing Thursday where he could learn his final fate with the QMJHL, but that won't solve the problem of possible criminal charges from the authorities in Quebec.

For now, let's set that aside. It's hard to argue with the idea that Cormier deserves to have a day in court over what he did. I've always been one to believe that criminal charges stemming from events inside the arena of sport should be saved for the truly extreme cases. No one should be arguing for the arrest of, say, Kael Mouillierat because he threw an illegal elbow.

But if you can't understand the stark difference between the kind of elbows you see on the ice occasionally and what Cormier did, this post probably isn't for you.

Cormier left the bench, coming on the ice during a routine line change, and immediately made a beeline for Tam. Instead of lining him up for a routine, hard, clean hit that keeps guys from admiring their neutral-zone pass for more than .003 seconds, Cormier skated away from body contact and proceeded to stick his elbow out. He struck Tam while skating by him at full speed, and he got him right in the chops.

This wasn't an insane and emotional reaction to taunting, ala Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final. While it may not have been a calculated and premeditated act like Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore, it was much closer to that than anything Zidane did.

Tam had not just launched into a trash-talking tirade on Cormier, leading Cormier into a rage and causing him to do something stupid. Had that been the case, perhaps the hockey world would be more understanding.

The QMJHL has a tough decision to make Thursday -- or whenever -- because no suspension is going to be good enough for everyone. If they suspend him for the rest of the season, they're going to tick off New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, whose team holds Cormier's NHL rights.

Lamoriello does not believe that criminal charges or a suspension for the remainder of the season are warranted for the elbow.

“I’m not the judge and jury of things, but in my opinion this is not something that should be talked about,” Lamoriello said.

... Lamoriello was concerned enough that he made an effort to contact Cormier.

“Only because of the rhetoric that was talked about (with supsension and possible criminal charges) and just asking him how he felt,” Lamoriello said.

Good to know he was concerned enough to contact Cormier. Perhaps someone should call Tam, since he was the one in the hospital!

Lamoriello has reason to be concerned about Cormier, however. As Tom Gulitti points out, Cormier would have to go through an AHL review before he can play for the Lowell Devils if he's suspended for the rest of the QMJHL season.

Frankly, that's the bare minimum punishment we should be talking about here. Since there's no way to punish Cormier beyond that (the NHL isn't going to suspend him for something he did in junior hockey), it's likely where everyone will have to settle.

And if you're one of those who thinks Cormier shouldn't be punished that much, you'd best resign yourself to the idea that he will never again play major junior hockey.

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