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Ex-junior hockey player jailed 30 days for attacking linesman

CALGARY - A former junior hockey player who came out of the stands to attack a linesman nearly two years ago was given 30 days in the penalty box Tuesday by a Calgary judge.

Robert Simard, 23, was convicted of assault last fall for beating linesman Rory McCuaig and pounding his head into the floor during an off-ice brawl nearly two years ago. McCuaig also suffered minor facial injuries.

"The victim was an official, not another player," said Alberta provincial court Judge Ian Kirkpatrick in handing down the sentence.

"He banged the victim's head into the ground several times, until his helmet was crushed. He then kicked him in the face. The victim became disoriented."

Court heard Simard had been thrown out of the Oct. 22, 2006 game between his North East Athletic Association Canucks and the North West Calgary Athletic Association Bruins for slashing an opponent. He watched the end of the game from the stands, and was in the corridor when a teammate was escorted off the ice by McCuaig.

Coaches for both teams then ignored the referee's orders to hold their benches to prevent both sides from meeting each other in the narrow hallway that separated the dressing rooms at the Stu Peppard Arena.

A scuffle ensued. Simard testified at the trial that he tried to break up the brawl and was nowhere near McCuaig when he was attacked and left unconscious, but McCuaig identified Simard as his attacker.

Kirkpatrick examined other cases involving hockey players charged with assault in determining Simard's sentence.

NHL players have twice before been prosecuted for on-ice incidents.

Former Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to causing bodily harm and missed 20 games for an attack that left Colorado forward Steve Moore with a broken neck on March 11, 2004. And Marty McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon for slashing Vancouver's Donald Brashear in the head with his stick in February 2000 when he played for the New York Rangers.

Simard's lawyer Alain Hepner argued his client had already suffered enough from the notoriety of the case. He also pointed out that several other professional hockey players who assaulted players in recent years didn't go to jail.

But Kirkpatrick rejected Hepner's call for a conditional discharge agreed with the Crown's assessment that incarceration was needed for what it called an "unprovoked attack."

"The paramount consideration is the deterrent effect," Kirkpatrick said. "We need to prevent this from happening again."

Simard's 30-day jail term is scheduled to be served on weekends beginning Aug. 8.

Kirkpatrick place few other conditions on Simard as part of the sentence.

"He is a first time-offender," said Hepner, noting Simard now plays on a recreational team through work. "There is no need for anger management counselling."

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