Disclipine hearing slated for hit that broke Toronto hockey player's neck

Scott Oakman (GTHL executive)



TORONTO - The boss of a major youth hockey league in this city says his organization will hold a discipline hearing for a player who delivered an illegal hit that left an opposing team member with a broken neck.

Scott Oakman, executive director of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, said the organization is investigating the hit from behind at a game Friday.

The illegal check left 16-year-old Ted Reeve Thunder player Justin Mendes hospitalized and with four screws in his head to hold a halo traction device in place.

"We're hoping for a full recovery for him and we're continuing to review the circumstances," said Oakman. "We'll make sure the player who committed the infraction is dealt with appropriately."

Oakman said the player who delivered the hit, whose name has not been released, has been "suspended indefinitely." He, and his parents, have been notified of the hearing but a date has not been scheduled.

"At this stage of the game the club has been informed (the player) is suspended indefinitely pending an appearance before the discipline committee. We've left it up to the family to contact us if and when they want to appear before that committee. In the meantime, he remains suspended."

The Mendes family will also be invited to the hearing to share any information they want to with the discipline committee. No one from the GTHL has been in direct contact with Mendes or his family, Oakman said.

"The family has just been really focused on their son and we've been communicating through the team manager at this stage and that is what has been requested of us," he said. "We are respecting that."

Meanwhile, the GTHL is conducting a sweeping survey of its 38,000 players on player safety. It's asking whether body-checking should be eliminated from certain levels of competitive hockey entirely.

The league did a similar survey in 2010 and want to compare those results with the new findings when they're tabulated in the coming months.

Oakman said that while players at the highest levels of competitive hockey in the GTHL over-whelming supported body-checking, there is an changing sensibility about the dangers of big hits and concussions.

"The example I always give is when I first started this job I'd get calls about referees over calling games," he said. "Now I get calls when penalties aren't being called. Certainly, the culture of that has changed dramatically."

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