Now that the suspensions have been set down by Michigan and the CCHA, much of the talk amongst fans is whether Steve Kampfer should sue Tropp, Comley and/or Michigan State for Saturday’s incident.

Many of the comments on this site have suggested this, and former Ann Arbor News columnist Jim Carty (who’s in law school now and couldn’t wait to test his chops) discussed the possibility on WTKA 1050AM Monday morning.  An excerpt of his call [full podcast here]:

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Basically Carty explains that there’s certain risk that you assume when you engage in any activity, in this case, college hockey.  The question becomes whether the incident occurs outsides the bounds of the normal risk that is assumed to be part of the game.  And then, to sue, Carty offers that you usually tie the suit to some form of damages, like if Kampfer lost an eye or experienced damage to the head, for instance.

For more on this, I contacted former WTKA morning host Dave Shand who’s still in the throes of his lawsuit against Bill Martin.   The former NHL and Michigan player, and assistant under Red Berenson offered his perspective of this.

“There are probably going to be criminal charges filed and Steve is going to have a heck of a civil suit against Tropp, Comley and MSU.   This is way, way beyond what is permitted by the rules, and everyone in hockey, never mind the CCHA, knew that Steve had a broken neck.”

“I have seen a lot of brutal incidents but this is unique.   A kid viciously attacked in the off-season, by a Michigan football player, had to be put is a halo to heal a broken neck, makes a courageous comeback and then is viciously slashed IN THE NECK at the end of a game that was over.”

“[Spartan coach Rick] Comley didn’t send his player to hurt someone, but sent him out with a clear message that making shit hit the fan won’t hurt.   The MSU player leads their team in penalty minutes and is on the ice in the last minute of a game that’s over?   That is pre-meditated.   Comley and MSU are trying to cover their asses like crazy.   I still think there will be charges.”

I asked Shand if he knew of any history of this type of suit, he replied, “I do not know of any successful suits; I do know a lot of incidents that quietly went away.”
Brian at mgoblog is hammering away at the CCHA and Michigan State to throw Conboy and Tropp out of the league, it looks like they’ll just be suspended for the balance of the year.  Earlier this week Cook made this point:
If you’re going to maintain a ban on fighting you have to come down even harder on these incidents because players have a more limited ability to self-police. If college hockey is serious about protecting its players it must take action.

I come from the Don Cherry school of hockey, and I agree.  I asked Shand about this as well:

“I think fighting should be allowed.  I have said so publicly many times. It eliminates the stick work and the chickenshit players. It is always interesting to watch what happens to the “brave” college players once the cage comes off and fighting is permitted in the pros.    Many just disappear.”

Related: Recap of everything on this incident from Yost Built.

5 Comments

  1. CONBOY WITHDRAWS FROM MSU

    Reported this afternoon by Jim Comparoni from SpartanMag.com

    As has been widely-reported, Comley suspended sophomore Corey Tropp and freshman Andrew Conboy for the rest of the year.

    Today, Comley said they are off the team and were given the option of holding talks and potentially rejoining the team next year. Tropp is still in school and apparently is interesting in possibly rejoining the team next year. Comley said Conboy has withdrawn from school, is out of the program, gone, and Comley wishes him well.

    Comley said he wrestled hard with the decision, and said it’s the second most difficult decision he has ever had to make as a coach. In the end, Comley said the important thing was to uphold the image of the MSU hockey program, the university and college hockey.

  2. Carty’s right on the civil aspect of a suit. Without damages or loss, it’s tough to recover. Regarding criminal charges, I’ve said my piece on this.

    “While the circumstances here are certainly obvious, there are thousands of other crippling injuries every year that are not. And, unfortunately, you cannot pick one of the obvious ones for a court case without opening the door to the rest. Intent to injure in just about any contact sport is there. You don’t hit someone with the intent of making sure they get up and lead a productive afternoon. Who is to say that any hit on the boards that goes awry didn’t have some debilitating intent? And further, do you want the person(s) making that decision to be wearing a black robe or sitting in a box full of 11 other people, most of whom have never played or watched your sport at the level you watch/play/enjoy?”

    The thought of the legal system getting involved in this is bad news for sports in general. That’s why I’m so disappointed in MSU and the CCHA for not barring Tropp and Conboy for this year and next, or outright expelling both players. Brian is right, their presence next year will be nothing but bad news for the CCHA. But once you set precedent for criminal charges in sports, it’s impossible to drag the law out of the sporting arena. the shades of grey grow deeper and deeper, and before you know it the whole sport is changed because of the liability issue.

    How many times have you seen a boarding call where someone’s called for the player’s head? Even when it was clear to one side that the player was trying to get the other player’s side and not his back? Shades of grey. The case may be a little more cut and dry against Tropp (and whether we like it or not, it ain’t that cut and dry against Conboy), but the ones that follow won’t be. And we have to be conscious of that. My two cents anyway.

  3. Pingback: Kampfer, Tropp Zapruder Film, err, Stills

  4. Carty is a first year student at a 3rd tier law school.

    I’m not sure he has the experience to provide a legal analysis of the case. Regarding the civil aspects, look at these two cases: McSorely was sentenced to 18 months probation. Bertuzzi doesn’t even have a criminal record from the incident, he was given a conditional discharge and when his year of probation was up, the case was removed from his record — and he put a guy out of hockey.

    So, given that the two of the most notorious incidents of recent on-ice violence amounted to less than slaps on the wrist, I doubt we’ll see much more from the authorities.