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(Nathan Denette)
(Nathan Denette)

A few more thoughts on l'affaire Cormier Add to ...

The fallout continues from the elbow heard round the Abitibi, not least around these parts.

So after letting the dust settle for most of 24 hours, it's time to come back to the Cormier incident and yesterday's post. The bulk of your reactions to this were addressed in a post by your humble servant (that would be moi) in the comments last night, but we don't have a bully pulpit for nothing, so we're going to stretch it out a little and see how it fits this evening, if you don't mind.

Some commenters have accused FI of being cavalier and flippant toward the injuries sustained by the unfortunate Mikael Tam. Fair enough, the author of these lines could have more been more sympathetic yesterday and more vigorous in the condemnation and denunciation of the hit.

You'll have heard by now Tam was released from hospital late Monday night, to the relief of all concerned, not least his family and friends. We wish him a speedy recovery and a resumption to his impressive draft season.

Others suggest that we should ditch the ironic tone of this blog in regards to this incident. Sorry, not going to happen, at least not entirely. Although we're pleased to announce FI will now feature 20 per cent more outrage in every new posting on the subject.

As long as the hockey industry continues to indulge in hypocrisy and refuses to seriously, definitively address incidents of outrageous thuggery - as it has done for generations and presumably will continue to do so - it merits mock and ridicule.

My point was not to make light of Tam's injuries (which I don't believe I did) or to let Cormier off the hook (which I didn't), but to tweak the nose of the guy leading the criticism and some of the contrived shock and horror this has prompted in hockey circles.

A few, like Patrick Roy and Georges Laraque, have called it the worst thing they've ever seen on a rink. Um, anyone remember the time Marty McSorley, hewer of wood, chopped down Donald Brashear? Or Bertuzzi on Moore? Or Mike Richards's "clean hit" on David Booth? Again, this is not an attempt to create moral equivalencies, we're just trying to point out a few absurdities.

So cue the Casablanca references, with the QMJHL in the role of Claude Rains's Capt. Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find wanton violence in this arena!

Anyway, enough with all this defensiveness.

It goes without saying that Cormier must assume his responsibility for the injuries he caused to Tam and be held to account (yes, even before the courts if prosecutors wish it), but it occurs that he is also the product of a culture and a system that has led him to be the player he is.

The fact is the hockey world allowed this to happen to Mikael Tam (and Ben Fanelli, and too many others to mention).

Cormier's style of play is described as gritty, quintessentially Canadian, in the parlance.

The gnarled old hard cases who are apparently custodians of our national game enabled this kid, they made him the captain of his national team, coached him on how to cut off the neutral zone at all costs and taught him that getting up in an opponent's grille and under his skin is a valuable skill.

They also made him a soon-to-be-very-rich young man. Speaking of which, references in this space to him being a 'very naughty young man' were widely condemned by many commenters - fine, but that's essentially how the game views him.

Does anybody doubt that Cormier will turn pro if suspended by the Q, like Jesse Boulerice did after two-handing OHL opponent Andrew Long in the face in 1998? Really think this will hold him back from playing for New Jersey?

Even if he were to be convicted criminally of assaulting Tam, the consequences wouldn't necessarily be career-threatening. Todd Bertuzzi got a conditional discharge, so did Marty McSorley. Bertuzzi's accrued loadsa millions since his attack on Steve Moore, and has never wanted for an NHL job.

See? They talk, they frown, they cluck, but they don't really care. Bertuzzi, who by most accounts is a good man, has been forgiven by hockey. Our bet is the game will extend the same generosity to Cormier.

Part of the difficulty in talking about the most recent incident - and indeed this whole issue - arises from the emotional reaction provoked by the gruesome images of Tam convulsing on the ice.

Up to that point, the elbow Cormier dished out is no less sneaky or dirty than the one he stuck into a Swedish player last month in a world junior warm-up game. He didn't get a penalty on that play, wasn't suspended, wasn't stripped of his captaincy. There was tut-tutting on the part of some analysts, but no strident calls for him to be sent home.

At least not that we heard. But we were peace-on-earth-ing and goodwill-toward-man-ing, so we may have missed it.

Would the outrage have mounted if his victim had been more badly injured? Surely. Was it qualitatively different? Not really. Should it have been punished? Absolutely. But it wasn't.

To close, a small point on the law.

You don't have to hurt someone to be convicted of assault. According to FI's lawyers (well okay, law profs contacted in the course of our day job), you just need to be found to have applied force without consent. The results injuries or criminal intent are not considerations in assigning guilt or innocence, they come into play later when sentencing time rolls around.

So from that standpoint, the elbow, the cross-check, the hit from behind, the sucker punch should be addressed with equal severity whether someone is injured or not.

The act is reprehensible in itself, absent the consequences, and must be dealt with convincingly.

But life's not that simple, and introspection is hard, especially, it seems, for the hockey world.

So please don't shoot the piano player.

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