PLYMOUTH - A bone-crushing body check in a high school hockey game was determined Friday not to be a criminal act.
That was the verdict that emerged when a Plymouth District Court clerk magistrate declined to issue criminal charges against the Scituate High player who knocked a Duxbury player to the ice during a Jan. 7 game at The Bog Ice Arena in Kingston.
A video of the check posted on the Internet sparked much debate in online forums, after news reports that the Duxbury youth’s parents were seeking criminal charges against the Scituate player.
The clip showed Duxbury’s Tucker Hannon receiving a pass in the offensive zone as a Scituate player in dark blue, Alex Way, was skating back to help defend. Just after Hannon took a wrist shot, Way swooped in and hit him hard in front of the crease.
Hannon’s head flew back and his skates went out from under him, his body parallel with the ice. He landed hard on his side and rolled over onto his stomach, his hockey gloves covering his head and face in pain.
He was later diagnosed with a concussion and missed five weeks of school. He also had to sit in darkness for up to two weeks as he recovered from the head injury, he told reporters in the courthouse lobby after the hearing.
Hannon’s parents sought to press criminal charges against Way for that check. In the end, all they received was an expression of regret.
Standing in the courthouse lobby after the hearing, Way said, “I’m sorry Tucker got a concussion. And I’m sorry it got to this point.’’
Way’s attorney, Robert Harnais of Quincy, said Way did not intend to hurt anybody and the incident was “blown way out of proportion.’’
“Mr. Way is sorry this whole thing occurred,’’ said Harnais. “He’s sorry Tucker got a concussion. At no time did he wish that upon him.’’
“Now sports are in court? That’s not how it should be,’’ said Harnais, who said such disputes should be addressed in the rink or the field where they are played.
Clerk Magistrate Philip J. McCue made his ruling in a closed hearing.
Jay Mullen, the attorney for the Hannons, said he viewed Way’s body check as assault because “the play was over’’ when it occurred.
Mullen also said the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association should have taken action. Because no penalty was called, no suspension, and no one ever apologized or contacted Hannon, it “left us to no other choice’’ but to turn to the courts, he said.
Mullen also noted the size difference between the two boys: Way is a 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound senior and Hannon is a 5 foot-9-inch, 145-pound junior.
The MIAA has not taken any action in the incident, which, given the extensive media coverage, could well be discussed by the MIAA’s hockey committee at its next meeting.
The MIAA considered the case to be “a private matter between the parents,’’ said Paul Wetzel, spokesman for the MIAA.
Hannon told reporters the matter could have been resolved if Way had just apologized, or if the Scituate High School coaches or MIAA had addressed his family’s concerns about the hit and the injury he sustained.
“I don’t think it should have been brought to court,’’ said Hannon.
“The [Scituate] coaches could have easily said something to me. [There was] no reaching out, nothing,’’ said Hannon. “Easily he could have said, ‘Sorry,’ and it would have been settled. This was the last thing we wanted to do.’’
Hannon said the matter was settled in his mind.
“The apology was accepted,’’ he said.
Hannon and Way both play lacrosse in the spring and their teams will be facing each other May 8.Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.