SAGUENAY, Que. – An on-ice assault case that served as a lightning rod in the national debate on fighting in hockey ended Wednesday when a judge granted the son of NHL legend Patrick Roy an absolute discharge.
The sentence means ex-goaltender Jonathan Roy will have no criminal record and allows the budding singer to pursue his musical dreams in the United States.
Quebec court Judge Valmont Beaulieu handed down his sentence just a few hours after Roy, 20, caught people off guard by pleading guilty just as his two-day trial on a charge of assault was set to begin.
After entering the plea, a contrite-sounding Roy said he regretted his behaviour in March 2008 when he skated the length of the ice as a member of the Quebec Remparts and pummelled rival netminder Bobby Nadeau.
Nadeau, who was playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game, did not fight back.
Roy said he showed a lack of judgment in launching the attack, one that drew numerous politicians, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, into a debate over what could be done to curb violence in hockey,
“I assume total responsibility for what I did,” Roy told the court. “I lacked an enormous amount of judgment and I regret it.
“What I did had nothing to do with hockey. I stepped over the line. When I see the video of the interview (after the game), I don’t recognize myself. My parents have been deeply affected, especially my mother. I don’t think she’s recovered yet.”
Roy also promised to give $5,000 to charity.
Roy, whose coach at the time was his famous father, did not speak to reporters Wednesday, dispatching his lawyer instead to convey his feelings.
“He’s really happy,” Steve Magnan said outside the courtroom in Saguenay, about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City.
“He’s moving on with a new career. He’s now a singer….. Because he will not have any criminal record, it will be possible for him to go to the United States and try to live his dream.”
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers, who played for Chicoutimi between 2001 and 2004, said Wednesday he believes Roy showed bad judgment in hitting Nadeau when he was down.
“Yes, you get emotional,” Deslauriers said. “He crossed the red line and went after the guy because he was probably angry or whatever. I don’t know the situation.
“He just made a bad judgment continuing to hit the guy when he was down, when he should have stopped. It’s a fine line.”
The Crown did not oppose the defence request for the absolute discharge.
Magnan had argued Roy was targeted by prosecutors just because of his famous family name, and was the victim of a biased police investigation and the improper application of prosecution guidelines.
Roy said he was being prosecuted on the basis of new provincial rules that hadn’t even been in place when the attack occurred in March 2008.
Under new rules introduced in July 2008, Quebec’s Office of Public Prosecution toughened a 30-year-old regulation that had made assault charges possible for a hockey player only when the incident resulted in injury.
Because Nadeau did not suffer lasting injuries, defence lawyers argued no charges should have been laid under the old rules.
Roy was charged three days after July 28, 2008, when the tougher regulations came into effect.
Calgary Flames backup goalie Curtis McElhinney said it’s a good thing Roy showed contrition for his act.
“It was a serious thing and obviously the guy who was at the other end had no interest in getting involved,” said McElhinney.
“It’s difficult. There’s always that fine line between sports and real life. His actions, I don’t think they were the right thing to do at the time. That’s nice that he is making amends and admitting he was wrong and hopefully doing something to make up for it.”
Chris Phillips, the outgoing Ottawa Senators’ player-union representative, said the hands of a union are tied once police become involved in any such case.
“It’s an incident you don’t want to see happen a lot where they do have to get involved,” Phillips said.
“It’s not something that happens all the time. We’ve all watched the game long enough, we know what’s acceptable and what’s not. That’s pretty much the end of it right there. We know where the line is and if we cross it then we risk the possibility of it going to a higher power.”