Player who punched ref gets light penalty

Rosie
Rosie Mullaley
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Hockey/Court

A Bell Island hockey player who punched a referee because he called a penalty on him ended up with a light penalty in court.

Edward (Bernie) Sweeney pleaded guilty to one count of assault and was given a conditional discharge with nine months' probation Wednesday in provincial court in St. John's.

A Bell Island hockey player who punched a referee because he called a penalty on him ended up with a light penalty in court.

Edward (Bernie) Sweeney pleaded guilty to one count of assault and was given a conditional discharge with nine months' probation Wednesday in provincial court in St. John's.

It means the 33-year-old will not have a criminal record, providing he does not breach the conditions of probation, which include that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour. If he breaches probation, a conviction can be registered and a sentence imposed.

The charge stems from an incident that happened Dec. 4, 2009, during a recreational hockey game at Monseigneur Bartlett Memorial Arena on Bell Island.

According to the facts of the case read out in court, Sweeney became enraged when the referee called him for a tripping penalty.

Sweeney called the ref "a f--king idiot" and questioned his officiating skills.

The ref told him Sweeney - who played this season with the Bell Island Wave in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League - that he was being too rough and informed him that his bullying tactics were not needed in the rec league.

The two exchanged more words until Sweeney challenged the man to a flight. He dropped his gloves and assaulted the man, punching him several times in the back of the head and the face.

When examined at hospital, the man was found to have bruising, swelling and lumps on his head and face.

The league suspended Sweeney for a year.

"In the hockey world, and in the sports world overall, hitting a referee is not acceptable," Crown prosecutor Ruth Wakeham said during sentencing submissions.

"You just don't do it. ... There has to be some consequences."

Sweeney's lawyer, Bill Collins, argued that because of his client's favourable pre-sentence report, his unblemished record and the remorse he felt for his actions, the judge should give him an absolute discharge, which would immediately erase the incident from record.

"He accepted what he did was wrong," said Collins, who pointed out Sweeney also coaches minor hockey.

"He was aware of the harm he did to the individual ...

"He admits to losing his cool. He regrets his actions. This was one mistake in a hockey-type situation."

Collins said even Bell Island RCMP officers called the incident "a random act" brought on by a "heat-of-the-moment" reaction.

But newly appointed Judge Lois Skanes disagreed with that assessment.

"This wasn't just a reflex, like (a single) smack," she said. "There was a little more to it than that.

"And this was on a referee. There's a big difference doing something like this to a referee as opposed to another player."

Nonetheless, given Sweeney's clean background, she felt a conditional discharge was appropriate.

Sweeney didn't say anything as he left the courtroom.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Bell Island Wave, Avalon East Senior Hockey League

Geographic location: Bell Island, St. John's

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    It's hard to figure out which is more disturbing, the fact that someone can assault another person and get away with it or the fact that whatever league this is figures that a one year suspension is all that's required if a player beats the crap out of a referee. A lot of leagues in most sports will suspend a player for a year or more for verbally assaulting a referee, never mind physically attacking one.

  • AR
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    In all the years I've watched hockey games, including local games and the NHL, I've never seen a player punch out a referee. It's something that's unheard of and something that players do not do. This particular player did not act in the heat of the moment, as stated; quite the contrary, he called the ref a f-----g idiot and challenged him to fight. He had a heck of a lot more than one 'moment' to control himself and didn't. A conditional sentence, resulting in no criminal record, for punching a person in the face several times ? That sentence is a joke. What about the message being sent to minor hockey players by a coach who used a referee's head as a punching bag ? The sentence indicates that the court couldn't care less about deterrence or whether any message is being sent.

  • Telling it how Id
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Is this guy still coaching minor hockey?

    If so, he should be banned from that as well.

    This guy is a true idiot.

  • johnny from the valley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    For a senior league player to hit a ref is in-excusible in a lower league. Then again it only shows how inexperienced and inept our judicial system has become and how our judges and lawyers are really the instigators of trouble cause they cant seem to get a handle on the punishment to suit the crime, so with this result, flail away bys, flail away. The next time, take the judge to the penalty box.

  • Sea-Dog
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    When are we going to stop wasting time and money bringing people to court? some of these sentences are idiotic & stupid why don't we just tell people to stay home for awhile and be good ? thats about all these so called Judges are doing? Justice on this island has become a joke a big joke come on gang give us a break

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    It's hard to figure out which is more disturbing, the fact that someone can assault another person and get away with it or the fact that whatever league this is figures that a one year suspension is all that's required if a player beats the crap out of a referee. A lot of leagues in most sports will suspend a player for a year or more for verbally assaulting a referee, never mind physically attacking one.

  • AR
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    In all the years I've watched hockey games, including local games and the NHL, I've never seen a player punch out a referee. It's something that's unheard of and something that players do not do. This particular player did not act in the heat of the moment, as stated; quite the contrary, he called the ref a f-----g idiot and challenged him to fight. He had a heck of a lot more than one 'moment' to control himself and didn't. A conditional sentence, resulting in no criminal record, for punching a person in the face several times ? That sentence is a joke. What about the message being sent to minor hockey players by a coach who used a referee's head as a punching bag ? The sentence indicates that the court couldn't care less about deterrence or whether any message is being sent.

  • Telling it how Id
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Is this guy still coaching minor hockey?

    If so, he should be banned from that as well.

    This guy is a true idiot.

  • johnny from the valley
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    For a senior league player to hit a ref is in-excusible in a lower league. Then again it only shows how inexperienced and inept our judicial system has become and how our judges and lawyers are really the instigators of trouble cause they cant seem to get a handle on the punishment to suit the crime, so with this result, flail away bys, flail away. The next time, take the judge to the penalty box.

  • Sea-Dog
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    When are we going to stop wasting time and money bringing people to court? some of these sentences are idiotic & stupid why don't we just tell people to stay home for awhile and be good ? thats about all these so called Judges are doing? Justice on this island has become a joke a big joke come on gang give us a break