Was it a part of a game that has been accepted through the years, or was it an event that went far beyond the normal conduct of on ice behaviour and the much discussed code of the game.
That is what will be determined in a Victoria court room this week as former Prince Rupert resident Robin Gomez faces charges stemming from an on ice incident in Victoria back in March of 2008.
The incident that has resulted in charges and this week’s court appearance was part of an ECHL game filled with animosity, in which a number of fights had broken out during the course of the play, with tempers clearly on edge.
The incident of note took place between whistles in the second period, when Gomez stepped onto the ice and as it was described in court on Monday, sucker punched Las Vegas Stars player Chris Ferraro. The resulting injuries left Ferraro on the ice unconscious and eventually requiring eight stitches to the back of his head.
The result of that punch was a brawl filled second period and rather ugly remainder of the game, as scores were settled and on ice threats continued.
Following the game, Victoria police became involved and turned over their investigation to the Crown, which filed charges of assault causing bodily harm.
The ECHL, which is a third level professional league, below the American and the top level National Hockey league, is known for the physical nature of the game, a league where the fighting aspect of hockey has never been played down. It’s to that culture that much of this case will be outlined toward. As evidence is presented to show how the Crown believes the events of March 1st 2008 went far beyond even the normal level of violence of professional hockey, even that of the ECHL.
Gomez was suspended for the remainder of the season and then was cut by the Victoria Salmon Kings, something that has touched a nerve of a Prince Rupert resident, who provided a letter to the editor for Gomez's hometown paper The Daily News. (see below)
In his letter Dan Harris, outlines his disgust at the way that Gomez has been cut loose by both the league and the Salmon Kings, sacrificing him to the courts as it would be. It raises valid questions about the nature of the league and the game for that matter, where roles are expected to be played, and players know what is expected of them by management.
The nature of their sport is just as much on trial as is Mr. Gomez, yet he seems to be carrying the weight of it on his own, with little in the way of feedback or intercession from his now former employers.
The ECHL and the Salmon Kings do seem to be getting off easy in the early rounds of the court case, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of examination of the culture of the sport and how much of the violent tendencies in it are acceptable and what is not, something that still to this day needs to be addressed both in this instance and in the nature of the game overall.
It’s a scenario that has been played out in the past even in the NHL, where the famous case of Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore or Marty McSorley and Donald Brashear continues to resonate in hockey circles to this day.
Like those incidents and others of the past, the practice of players seeking out vengeance is once again up for discussion, vengeance that is always explained as being within the concept of The Code. The unwritten rules of conduct those players seem to point to whenever the more physical, sometimes violent nature of the game overtakes events.
That being said, Mr. Ferraro was injured rather badly in that game, suffering side effects weeks after the incident. For that individual event only Mr. Gomez is responsible, there is a line between the perceived acceptable behaviour on ice and what is beyond the rules.
In his letter Mr. Harris makes the case for Mr. Gomez having just done his job, as expected by the Salmon Kings and the ECHL. The Crown and Victoria Police believe that Mr. Gomez stepped well beyond that job description.
It will be in the courtroom and before Judge Judge Mike Hubbard where it will be decided if their concerns are to be validated or not and if Mr. Gomez is to be punished for his participation in the events.
Where that line is crossed is under review in the Victoria court room, the criminal case is expected to conclude today, Ferraro has also indicated that he intends for follow up with his own lawsuit regarding the incident once the criminal case is complete.
Victoria Times Colonist-- Las Vegas player accuses Gomez of 'sucker punch' in on-ice incident Vancouver Province-- On-ice assault trial for former Victoria Salmon Kings player Robin Gomez starts
The Victoria News-- Hockey player in court to face assault charges
CBC News-- Trial on hockey assault charge opens in Victoria
Rupert hockey player just doing his job
Letter to the Editor
Prince Rupert Daily News
Monday, June 15, 2009
This Monday there is a court case scheduled for one Robin Gomez, past winger for the Salmon Kings. This case has to do with Robin doing the job he was hired for by the Salmon Kings. This case has to do with one hockey player fighting another hockey player. This case has to do with one man punching another man in the heat of the game which is known for a certain amount of violence.
The really sad thing is that although Robin Gomez has had more than a few fights in his hockey career he would rather play hockey than fight but because he wanted to live in Victoria, near his family and friends, in his own country, that he was playing for a team who had one and only one job open to him and that was to be the enforcer.
Those who know the team will be painfully aware of the fact that that was the role he was hired for and the sole reason they played him.
He could score multiple goals in one game and sit out the next if there was nobody the team wanted to punish on the opposition.
I'll admit I know him personally and happen to know what a genuine and loyal friend he is.
He has never been a cheap shot artist and will not start something without provocation. He will do what he is asked and never complain if things are sometimes a little harder than anticipated.
He did his job and did it well even though he would have preferred to just have a regular position as a forward. He did what he was hired for and paid for.
When the inevitable and obvious situation happened and went bad just once, Bang, he was vilified and abandoned by the Salmon Kings.
Why you may ask?
In my opinion it was easier for the team management to cut him, pull their support and lawyer and cry that they would never condone this type of action. What a crock.
My question is, is there anyone who does not see the cowardess and hypocrisy in this situation.
The Salmon Kings had a good and loyal player that they bailed on. No regard for his future or what became of him as long as they would not have to spend any money on protecting their employee for doing the job they hired him for. Absolutely gutless and reprehensible.
In hockey, I think it would be fairly safe to say that fights just may be a part of the game.
I just wish the team could be held as accountable as the crown feels the player should be, which is, in itself a joke.
Is their anyone else that feels this might be a bit ridiculous? I for one am incensed that the team and the owners are not in court, because without them, Robin would not be appearing in court today.
On his own, fighting again, this time for his reputation and freedom.
Nice Salmon Kings, a fine way to show your colours. Loyalty like yours should be recognized for what it is, Shameful.
Prince Rupert, BC