RICHMOND, B.C. – A Vancouver father who purposely tripped a young hockey player while coaching his son’s minor league team will serve jail time for the assault in an unexpectedly heavy punishment a provincial court judge said should warn other parents to keep their cool.
Martin Tremblay must serve 15 days at a provincial corrections centre for hurting the child because he was in a position of trust and was supposed to be a role model when he instead acted out in a post-game fit of anger, said Judge Patrick Chen.
“Society will not tolerate the assault of children by adults,” Chen said Tuesday, as he read his ruling from the bench at provincial court in Richmond, just south of Vancouver.
“(The sentence is) a signal to other parents heavily involved in the sporting activities of their children that they must be seen as models of good and acceptable behaviour and not as instigators of violence and of riotous behaviour.”
Tremblay was volunteer coaching the UBC Hornets peewee hockey team last June when he stuck out his foot, sending two players of the opposing team tumbling to the ice during the traditional post-game handshake.
A 13-year-old injured his wrist and had to wear a cast, while a ten-year-old — who was not the intended target — did not suffer any bruises.
The dust-up was caught on amateur video, garnering more than two million hits on YouTube, while the 48-year-old was arrested and charged.
Tremblay, whose son played for his team, pleaded guilty to one count of assault in November.
In late January, the Crown asked for a sentence of 30 days under house arrest and probation, while the defence put forward the possibility of a suspended sentence or large fine.
But Chen elected to impose an even harsher sentence, describing the attack as akin to a “cowardly sucker punch on an unsuspecting victim.”
He said the aggravating factors were serious, with the violence coming at a time during the game when all participants are supposed to put aside all hostility and in the spirit of good sportsmanship, acknowledge for one another mutual respect.
“Win or lose, this was just a game,” Chen said. “This was the last place anyone would have expected an assault to take place and the very last place that one would have expected an adult to assault a child.”
Tremblay will not appeal the decision, said his defence lawyer.
Bob Bellows said that while his client was not expecting such punishment, he will follow the conditions in order to make amends.
“He lost his wife, he lost a number of construction contracts, he’s rebuilding his life after this incident,” Bellows said outside court. “He’s paid a heavy price for his actions that day.”
He added that Tremblay will likely never coach hockey again and has also been barred from his position as a leader with Scouts Canada.
Chen gave the man permission to serve the sentence on consecutive weekends after learning he started a new construction contract last week. When that’s through, he will go on probation, which could include requiring he take courses for anger management issues.
Court heard there were mitigating factors taken into consideration by the judge, including the fact Tremblay pleaded guilty at the first possible opportunity to avoid forcing children witnesses to testify.
The man also provided letters of apology to the victims and obtained numerous letters of support from parents of children on a second hockey team Tremblay coached.
A psychiatric report submitted to court found he was suffering “withdrawal” from anti-depressant medication and was overworked and exhausted from his job and volunteering. It said he didn’t realize he was off his medication for three weeks until the incident occurred.
But Chen said he wasn’t persuaded by defence arguments that Tremblay had “zero” likelihood to re-offend, noting the man was already on a one-year probation order following previous assault charge.
The incident occurred during the spring league’s gold medal game on June 23 game at a University of B.C. arena.
Court heard Tremblay’s team won 5-4 against the Richmond Steel, during which he repeatedly ridiculed the 13-year-old who was later tripped.
The judge noted Tremblay called the boy “twinkle toes” and insulted his skating ability to the point of sending the boy off the ice in tears.
After the child fell to the ice, he got back up and swung his stick at the coach, striking him on the arm. Parents and other spectators in the stands began yelling and throwing water bottles on to the ice.
When the teams retired to the locker room, Tremblay announced that he had “deliberately” tripped the child and said he should not have done so.