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Cormier suspended indefinitely for hit Add to ...

The video opens with just more than 3 minutes 40 seconds to play in overtime. At the bottom of the picture, a dark-uniformed player hops over the boards and tears across the neutral zone.

He swivels slightly to his right as he locks onto an onrushing defenceman, and plants his right elbow in his opponent's face at centre ice.

The defenceman, 18-year-old Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts, crumples like a marionette whose strings have just been cut. He begins convulsing as team therapists rush to his attention and wave furiously for a stretcher.

The player wearing the home team's black-and-red jersey, Patrice Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, has captained Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship and experienced both a gold medal and the thrill of being an NHL draft pick. But now his junior hockey career is in peril and his reputation in tatters after the shocking incident that left Tam in hospital with busted teeth and brain trauma.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League suspended the 19-year-old Cormier indefinitely yesterday while it probes his actions during Sunday's game in Rouyn-Noranda.

Remparts coach Patrick Roy, who said he had feared for Tam's life after witnessing the hit, was optimistic after visiting Tam in hospital.

"I had a chance to see him and when I was there, the doctor told us everything was going well," Roy said. "With the head and the neck, everything's normal.

"I'll leave it to the league to make the fairest decision," Roy said about disciplining Cormier. "I have confidence in our league. Clearly, we're expecting a very severe sanction."

Tam's condition is considered stable - he underwent a scan early yesterday morning that showed no deterioration from Sunday night - and according to the Remparts' radio broadcaster, he was released from hospital in the northwestern Quebec mining town late yesterday evening.

"He's alert and he's been able to speak to his mother," said Remparts spokeswoman Nicole Bouchard. "She's understandably anxious to see him."

The team said it's received hundreds of e-mails of support for the Quebec City-born Tam, including several from other teams in the league. The Remparts players opted to stay the night in Rouyn-Noranda on Sunday so they could visit their stricken teammate.

Cormier didn't comment yesterday.

An official with the Huskies said only that "he's trying to get through the storm" and that the incident has also left Cormier shaken.

As of last evening, Cormier hadn't yet spoken to Tam, Huskies spokeswoman Melanie Allard said, but hoped to talk to him shortly to wish him a speedy recovery.

Cormier was ejected from the game and given a major penalty for charging. The league is expected to rule on supplemental punishment this week.

The Sûreté du Québec interviewed several witnesses at the Arena Dave-Keon on Sunday and is investigating the incident to see if criminal charges are warranted.

Roy wants Cormier banned from the QMJHL for life.

"What he did was unbelievable, and I hope Cormier's junior career is over," Roy told Quebec City's Le Soleil. Roy met with police Sunday night.

The QMJHL is acutely sensitive to such incidents, given several ugly episodes of violence in its recent past. Roy's sons have been at the centre of two of the more shocking ones.

The first involved Jonathan Roy, a former Remparts backup goalie, who pummelled Chicoutimi Saguenéens goaltender Bobby Nadeau in a playoff game in 2008. The incident captivated the province and led to a QMJHL crackdown on gratuitous violence that has sharply reduced fighting in the league.

Jonathan Roy, who has since quit hockey to pursue a singing career, was suspended for seven games and later pleaded guilty to assault. He received an absolute discharge.

In the fall of 2008, Jonathan Roy's younger brother Frederick, a 17-year-old forward with the Remparts, violently cross-checked an opponent in the face during a postwhistle skirmish. He was suspended for 15 games.

The latest incident is another blot for major junior hockey. Last fall, the Ontario Hockey League kicked the Erie Otters' Michael Liambas out of the league after he elbowed 16-year-old Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli in the head (Fanelli suffered a skull fracture).

Last week, the OHL suspended Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian indefinitely pending an investigation into a head shot on the Barrie Colts' Matt Kennedy.

Cormier, a native of Cap-Pelé, N.B., was traded to the Huskies from the Rimouski Océanic on Jan. 7, not long after winning silver at the world juniors in Saskatoon. He's known as a rugged, bruising player who has gotten himself into trouble with his elbows in the past. In a pretournament game before the most recent world juniors, he nailed Sweden's Anton Rodin with an elbow to the face during a line change.

New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, who drafted Cormier in the second round in 2008, spoke to Cormier yesterday, and said he doubts the league will suspend him for the rest of the season and playoffs.

"I'm not the judge or jury, but in my opinion, no," Lamoriello told reporters in Newark.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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