By Stephanie Marin
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL _ A Montreal-area hockey player who was 16 when he became quadriplegic after a bodycheck from behind propelled him into the boards has been awarded $8 million.
One of Andrew Zaccardo’s lawyers said the amount handed down in a judge’s ruling this week might be a record in such a case in any sport.
Stuart Kugler said the decision is also important for other reasons.
“It is a reminder to all hockey players and coaches that checks from behind are not acceptable and are strictly prohibited because they can cause catastrophic injuries such as those suffered by Andrew Zaccardo,” Kugler said in an interview Wednesday.
Zaccardo has been unable to walk and has had to use a wheelchair since being hit by Ludovic Gauvreau-Beaupre in 2010. He also has limited use of his hands.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Daniel W. Payette concluded in his judgment that the rule of law still applies on the ice.
Payette, who was able to watch the bodycheck because a parent had filmed the incident, dismissed Gauvreau-Beaupre’s argument he did not mean to hit Zaccardo and that he wasn’t able to stop before contact was made.
“There was nothing accidental in the gesture,” Payette wrote, adding that Gauvreau-Beaupre’s version of events was “neither credible nor reliable.”
The judge pointed out that Gauvreau-Beaupre didn’t brake, try to change direction or minimize contact but rather used his arm to slam his opponent into the boards and even jumped in the process.
Gauvreau-Beaupre, who was sanctioned for a similar incident two years earlier, argued bodychecks are part of hockey and that there is an inherent risk when taking to the ice.
“He is wrong,” Payette ruled.
“I hope, and the (Zaccardo) family also hope this judgment, as well as a reminder that players should not hit from behind, will result in no other cases of people playing hockey for fun and then having to spend the rest of their lives in a wheelchair.”
Gauvreau-Beaupre and the insurance company involved have 30 days to appeal the ruling.
The Montreal Gazette quoted Zaccardo’s mother, Anna Marzella, as saying the family is happy with the ruling but still devastated by what happened.
“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,” she said in a statement to the newspaper.