Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Suddenly Quadriplegic

"It's a strong reminder to all players and coaches that checking from behind is too dangerous and it can cause devastating injuries just like those Andrew Zaccardo sustained."
"Participants in sports activities are not above the law -- they have to act as reasonable people and take care not to injure others. If they fail, and act in an unreasonable manner, they can be held responsible."
"More than anything it's a tragedy. Something that could have and should have been avoided was not, and now a boy is in a wheelchair for life. It's really sad."
Stewart Kugler, lawyer for plaintiff Andrew Zaccardo, 21

"Never did [Gauvreau-Beaupre] lose sight of Zaccardo or not know where he was. Yet he never tries to stop or attempt to avoid him, quite the contrary."
"Even if practicing a sport comes with inherent risks, participants can’t increase those risks in an unreasonable way. A participant in a sport has the right to expect that other players take reasonable measures to avoid [hurting] him – even in the case of a dangerous sport."
Quebec Superior Court Judge Daniel Payette
MUHC LIF   Andrew Zaccardo was in Grade 11 when he was hurt, and spent the next two years in hospitals and rehabilitation centres.

Hockey is Canada's national sport, beloved by children who play it in the streets in front of their homes, in backyard rinks, and public playgrounds, and then continue to play the sport as they become adults. It has never lost its popularity with the public at large, happy to support non-professional and professionals playing the game by securing tickets to games to ensure that the game will always go on as a mainstay of Canadian recreational culture.

All young boys in Canada who play hockey dream of becoming a big league star, another version of the familiar celebrities whose game dominates the culture becoming the new yardstick of achievement for young, aspiring players. Children, both boys and girls, who join junior leagues, become hugely competitive while many of their parents push them to greater heights of performance and endurance, losing sight of the pleasures of the game itself. With that emphasis on winning above all else, a level of violence is tolerated.

Six years ago in Quebec, playing in the provincial Midget Espoir [hope] category, two young and aspiring hockey players were classed among the best of their age group in that category. All the players in their age group wore hockey jerseys with 'Stop' signs on their backs in recognition of the growing awareness of hockey injuries, in hopes of avoidance, and more to the point emphasizing the prohibition against hitting from behind.

One of those players has realized his dream. Ludovic Gauvreau-Beaupre, now in his early 20s, plays semi-professional hockey in the North American Hockey League, destined no doubt, to go on as his skills improve and he moves upward toward professional hockey to play in the big leagues. The other, Andrew Zaccardo, is confined to a wheelchair, without use of his lower body,  unable to cut up the food on his plate, bathe, or dress himself.

In Grade 11, age 15, he was playing for the Midget AA Laval Patriotes. He was a talented hockey player close to the top of his league for goal scoring, a fast skater. A game against the Royal de Montreal changed all that.Twenty seconds into the game Ludovic Gauvreau-Beaupre skated behind Andrew Zaccardo, right arm raised below neck level to slam him into the boards, leaping into the air to hit with full force.

At trial in Quebec Superior Court, Justice Daniel Payette has ruled that Gauvreau-Beaupre was at fault. In his defence he had argued in his testimony that he hadn't seen Zaccardo as he went himself for the puck. And nor did the referee, Jonathan Cloutier, 80 feet from Zaccardo at the time of impact deem the collision to be anything other than an accident; going so far as to suggest that Zaccardo himself was somehow to be blamed for the collision.

There was film footage of the event, however, leading Justice Payette to conclude that on the evidence the guilt lay with Gauvreau-Beaupre's deliberate slamming of Zaccardo into the boards. Even though it was Gauvreau-Beaupre's contention that hits of this type are common, irrespective of rules forbidding them. Contending that since that is so, Zaccardo implicitly assumed the risk of being checked from behind when he stepped onto the ice.

Andrew Zaccardo spent two years of his young life under rehabilitation in hospital and rehabilitation centres after the accident.  While there he managed to complete high school. Since then he has finished CEGEP and has begun to study at Concordia University. He will never be fully physically functional again. The end result now has been the awarding of $8-million in damages to Andrew Zaccardo that will be paid by the Chartis Insurance Company of Canada.

Of that total, $6.6 million will cover the  young man's care and assistance for his lifetime, representing as well loss of income. Another $1-million was awarded to his mother who terminated her employment to look after her son. His father was awarded $350,000 and his younger brother an additional $50,000 in compensation for their suffering resulting from Andrew Zaccardo's life-shattering injury.
"We truly hope that this judgment reminds all hockey players to never check from behind, and that this judgment helps prevent other hockey players from getting severely injured like my son Andrew did."
Zaccardo’s mother, Anna Marzella
 Somehow, it seems as though justice hasn't fully been achieved when the unrepentant individual who had deliberately taken the decision to injure another player to the extent that a man's life has been so deleteriously impacted, while the perpetrator continues on with his chosen life trajectory without penalty for his  act of sociopathic malice.

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