Jonathan Roy’s Lucky Break
By Eric Rosenhek
The life of a competitive hockey player has many benefits. People look up to you, you receive special treatment, and if you’re Jonathan Roy, you can commit a criminal act and get away with it.
Roy, the 20-year-old son of hall-of-famer Patrick Roy, was given an absolute discharge last week after pleading guilty to assault. The guilty plea stems from an incident during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff game in March, 2008.
At the time, Roy was a goalie for the Quebec Remparts, a team that is co-owned and coached by his father. A brawl had broken out midway through the match. Amongst the chaos, Roy skated across the ice and viciously attacked Chicoutimi Sagueneens goalie Bobby Nadeau. The assault was captured on video and immediately went viral.
Many were aghast watching Roy brutally pound Nadeau, who clearly wanted no involvement in any fight. For his actions, Roy was suspended for seven games by the QMJHL and fined $500. A police investigation was launched, which ultimately led to the discharge.
Roy has since apologized for his conduct. In fact, he’s given up hockey to pursue a singing career. Clearly, the incident has been dealt with and everyone involved has moved on; however, the whole thing has left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
I will not criticize Roy since he knows what he did was wrong, and because he’s already faced condemnation from several sources. What bothers me is the precedent that has been set.
Seven games and a $500 fine is a very weak punishment. The consequences should have been much higher - possibly six months or a year suspension, or even expulsion.
Remember, this was not a regular hockey fight between two consenting players. This was a savage attack on someone who wasn’t even given a chance to defend himself. No league should tolerate such an action. The punishment handed down by the QMJHL tells players that attacking a defenceless and un-consenting opponent will only cost you your weekly stipend and a small handful of games.
In addition, the absolute discharge given to Roy sends an even more dangerous message to aspiring hockey players. It tells them they are above the law. According to an article on the CBC’s Web site, Roy could have faced up to five years in prison. However, his lawyer was able to persuade the court – with no opposition from the crown prosecutor – to give him the discharge.
Therefore, if a player commits an act as heinous as Roy’s, all he or she has to do is apologize, show remorse, and they will be emancipated from any charges.
What will it take for legal systems and hockey leagues to realize that there needs to be a crackdown? Fighting concerns me, especially when certain fights are born out of highly charged emotional situations, and where there is intent to severely maim your opponent. There’s already one player (Don Sanderson of Major League Hockey’s Whitby Dunlops) who lost his life due to a hockey fight. Sadly, I feel a tragedy greater than Sanderson’s death is going to occur before people realize that something needs to happen.
Believe me, I hate sounding like a broken record. But fighting in hockey threatens a player’s safety and for aspiring hockey players in North America, it builds on the incorrect notion that physical aggression is just as (if not more) important as being skilled.
Every so often, the debate about fighting comes up and after every expert states his or her opinion, the issue is swept under the rug. It’s frustrating, especially since the solution is simple: Either ban fighting or have stricter punishments for those who drop the gloves.
Jonathan Roy is not the first person who has put hockey fights into the critical spotlight. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last person either.