Ontario junior hockey player chases after bodycheck fractures spine

“His life has been altered following an injury resulting from the negligence of other parties”

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A last-minute hit in a junior hockey game at a cross-border tournament left a young Toronto player with a fractured spinal cord and life-altering injuries, a lawsuit against the player claims. coach, referees and opposing hockey organizations.

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Marcus Didiano was playing in an Ontario Junior Hockey League game on February 17, 2020, the Milton Menace against the Buffalo Junior Sabers. The Menace led five goals to one.

Didiano had scored two.

With less than a minute left in the game, Didiano, then 21, was skating along the boards with the puck when he was checked from behind by Sabers player Joshua Dressler.

Didiano said he was unaware of the incoming blow and couldn’t react in time to protect himself. His head and neck hit the boards in a flexed position, he claims in his lawsuit.

On the day of the match, the referees did not penalize Dressler, according to the statement. After further investigation, Dressler was suspended for eight games.

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Didiano’s lawyers filed a complaint for fault of the opposing player and negligence by the authorities.

“His life has been altered as a result of injury resulting from the negligence of other parties,” Jane Conte, Didiano’s attorney, said in an email.

Requests for additional comment and to interview Didiano went unanswered by the deadline.

The lawsuit also targets Hockey Canada, currently embroiled in a settling of scores over its handling of sexual abuse allegations, and other Canadian hockey authorities it accuses of negligence.

Didiano, now 23, lives in Toronto. He filed the lawsuit on February 3, 2022, also naming his parents, Josie Didiano and Greg Didiano, and his brothers, Adam Didiano and Dylan Didiano, as plaintiffs.

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The lawsuit is ongoing and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

Didiano’s claim alleges that Dressler intentionally rammed him into the boards without regard to Didiano’s safety, which violated the rules.

Dressler, 22, of West Seneca, NY, now plays for Nazareth College in Rochester, NY His family declined to comment on the lawsuit and attempts to contact Dressler have failed.

Patrick Monaghan of Smockum Zarnett LLP, Dressler’s solicitor, said: “The matter is before the courts and it is not something I could comment on now.”

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Hockey Canada rules penalize hits like the one alleged by Didiano.

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“A minor penalty and a game misconduct penalty or a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the referee, depending on the severity of the impact, shall be imposed on any player who intentionally , pushes, checks, crosses – checks while in motion or otherwise strikes an opposing player from behind anywhere on the ice,” Hockey Canada rules state.

“If a player is injured, a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty shall be imposed. A match penalty could also be imposed under this rule.

During the match, however, the referees gave Dressler no penalty for hitting Didiano, according to the statement.

Dressler had previously shown signs of aggression while trying to start a fight on a previous shift and had cross-checked and hit three Milton players without receiving penalties, the statement said.

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One of the defendants, Nick Tuzzolino, general manager and coach of the Buffalo Junior Sabers Hockey Club, is accused of failing to teach his players proper conduct during the game, neglecting player violence and encouraging bullying behavior, according to the statement. .

The protest further accuses Aaron Wallace and John Jaracz, the game’s referees, of failing to enforce the rules, ignoring violence and allowing infractions.

Tuzzolino, Wallace, Jaracz, Niagara Frontier Junior Hockey Club Inc., trading as Buffalo Junior Sabres, and USA Hockey Inc. are all based in the United States and have not yet filed a defense to the claim.

The National Post reached out to Tuzzolino, the Buffalo Junior Sabers and USA Hockey Inc. for comment, but they did not respond by the deadline.

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Wallace and Jaracz could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit accuses the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) and Hockey Canada of failing to provide policies that protect players and fail to ensure compliance with the rules.

The claim says authorities were negligent in handling the game.

“They allowed Junior Sabers players, especially Dressler, to commit rule violations without penalty, which led Dressler to expect to be able to commit further violations without penalty, which he did,” indicates the statement.

Larry Reimer, an attorney for the OJHL, OHF, OHA and Hockey Canada, said he was not yet able to comment on the matter.

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“I expect our defense, outlining our position, to be delivered in the near future,” he said in an email to the National Post.

Active and Safe Central, an injury prevention resource from the British Columbia Injury Prevention and Research Unit, says Canadian hospital emergency departments are getting more injury visits from those who play hockey on ice than any other sport, with spinal and trunk injuries contributing 13 to 33 percent of those injuries.

“Hockey is a pretty fast game, and it tends to be in the moment. What really matters in cases like these is the impact of the injury. Not all injuries are created equal,” said Lewis Smith, National Projects Manager at the Canada Safety Council.

In Didiano’s case, the incident resulted in a fractured spine accompanied by chronic pain and limitation of movement, according to the lawsuit. These types of injuries can limit future prospects in sport but also in other jobs that require certain physical movements, the statement said.

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Smith said shots against the board are often dangerous.

“There’s a reason they’re banned at almost every level of hockey,” he said in an interview.

In a National Library of Medicine study, 52.2% of hockey-related injuries were due to body checking. The study found there is growing evidence that body-checking has greater risk than benefit for youngsters, and the findings support calls to ban the practice of hockey.

“Hockey is inherently a physical sport, an outright no hitting ban probably wouldn’t work for him. However, poor body checking or lack of technique is dangerous and needs to be looked into,” Smith said.



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Catherine J. Martinez