$702K award for on-ice hit a 'wake-up call' for rec hockey

Ottawa recreational hockey players and co-ordinators say they hope a decision to award a player more than $702,000 for an on-ice injury serves as a serious warning that violence has no place at their level.

A bodycheck from behind in a 2012 game in the capital left Drew Casterton with headaches and fatigue.

On Friday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Sally Gomery found Gordon MacIsaac, an opposing player in the now-defunct Ontario Senior Men's Hockey League, liable for Casterton's injuries.

A lawyer for Casterton, now 36, declined an interview with CBC. MacIsaac's lawyer did not respond to CBC's interview request Wednesday.

Laura Glowacki/CBC

"It is very sad," said Walter Raschkowan, a longtime beer league player, on Wednesday. "I think that more players need to take [safety] into consideration when they're playing."

While violence is rare is rec hockey, Raschkowan said when he does see outbursts it's usually during playoffs when emotions run high.

"Personally the players I like to surround myself with … are guys that are just going out to play hockey," said Scott Shackell, 29, a league co-ordinator with the Minto Skating Centre.

The size of the sum awarded to Casterton, $702,551 in total, will hopefully get the attention of all players and give those few who take the game too far some pause, he said. 

"I just wish everyone could take a step back. If things are going that crazy in your mind, get off the ice if you have to."

Liability insurance

Lori Lopez, executive director of Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association, said it's partly the risk of injury in hockey which prompted her organization to offer their more than 450 member leagues insurance.

It provides liability coverage of up to $10 million to players for $23 a year.

"Municipalities are starting to mandate liability policies for any of their ice users and adult users are starting to recognize as well that they are open to risk," she said. 

The coverage is only valid in cases where injury is accidental, said Lopez. 

Shackell encourages recreational hockey players and teams to ensure they have liability coverage, especially considering the amount of damages this case shows can be awarded.

"It's a wake-up call for everyone," he said.