Todd Ball, a goalie who “destroyed” another hockey player’s face with his stick has been sentenced to 30 days in jail (to be served on weekends) and one year of probation for assault causing bodily harm.
Stick to the Face
The incident occurred in May 2016 on the final day of the 3-on-3 Ice Hockey Challenge, a beer-league tournament in Fort Erie.
Ball was intoxicated at the time of the incident. He and some friends had been celebrating his birthday and binge drinking since early in the morning. The victim, Ryan Cox, was on a breakaway near the end of the game. As Cox approached the net, Ball left the goalie crease and, using both hands, violently swung his goalie stick directly into Cox’s face. Cox was immediately taken to hospital where he underwent more than seven hours of surgery to reconstruct his face and repair the significant damage.
Medical records indicate that Cox suffered a concussion, fractures on both sides of his nose, a shattered nose, and fractured orbital bone. He currently has six plates holding his face together, and his treatment is not yet done. Since the incident which took place more than 11 months ago, he has been unable to return to work. He says that his “life has never been the same”, and that he cannot feel his face, gets bad headaches, and that it is hard for him to sleep.
Ball originally faced more serious charges of aggravated assault, but struck a plea deal for the more lenient charge of assault. He has reportedly written Cox a letter of apology and is also seeking treatment for alcoholism.
At trial, the Crown prosecutor recommended that Ball be sentenced from anywhere between 30 days to nine months in jail. Ball’s defense counsel requested that Ball be placed on probation or be given a conditional discharge.
Justice Colvin stated that on-ice assaults during a hockey game are a challenge for the legal system. By stepping onto the ice, all players accept that there may be some level of violence in the game, and that they may be injured. The challenge arises in differentiating between the nature of hockey, which involves physical contact, and criminal conduct that occurs outside of this standard context of the game.
Justice Colvin has said:
In my mind, the significant fact is that this was a non-contact, fun tournament…it makes it very different from cases involving competitive play, for instance in the NHL or the AHL. Some violence might be expected in those games, though not so much as to bring criminal law into play.
In reaching his final decision, Justice Colvin considered a pre-sentencing report written about Ball. According to the report, Ball had a “troublesome upbringing”, which the judge stated was “an understatement”.
Ball’s father was a violent, abusive biker who had spent 20 years in prison. Over the course of Ball’s childhood, there were a number of police interventions at the family home, including one which ended in a 10-hour standoff with an emergency task unit. Ball’s father was eventually beaten to death by a biker gang when Ball was 12 years old.
Justice Colvin ultimately determined that Ball’s background and drinking problem were an explanation, but not an excuse, for his actions on the ice.
Justice Colvin also commented on the difficult nature of sentencing, stating:
Sentencing must attempt to strike a balance between the offence and its consequences on the one side, and the offender, both good and bad, on the other side. That balance is difficult to find. For the victim, his friends and family, no punishment can be enough. For the accused, his friends and family, no amount of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness is enough.
If you are facing assault charges, contact Durham region assault lawyers Affleck & Barrison LLP. We have a reputation for effective results in defending all manner of assault charges. We offer a variety of payment options, a free initial consultation, and a 24-hour phone service. Contact us at 905-404-1947 or online to speak with an Oshawa lawyer specializing in the defence of assault.