18-year-old Tanner Ferguson, a defenceman in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), was taken to Strathroy Hospital with a crushed nasal cavity, broken orbital bone, broken jaw and severe concussion after a third period hit from Rockets' forward Justin Thomas in Saturday Dec 17th game.
Officials with the Lambton Shores Predators are now waiting for the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) to determine if the check warrants additional discipline.
Thomas, an 18-year-old Muncie Ont. native who played with the Sarnia Sting earlier this year, was assessed a 10-minute game misconduct for gesturing after the hit — resting his head on his hands as if sleeping.
Ferguson was carried off ice by coaches and managerial staff, then taken to University Hospital in London where he underwent surgery. Doctors inserted a titanium plate from his nose to temple, added mesh around the orbital area and repaired his jaw.
"He's going to be
getting, I believe, three plates in his face
and he's got a broken jaw so he'll be six
weeks sucking out of a straw," said
Predators head coach Mark Davis.
"His eye socket dropped down to his cheek. It was pretty bad."
The legality of the hit and whether there was any intent to injure are disputed by the respective teams.
"I just hope that this kid (Thomas) doesn't play, at least this year, or at least gets 20 games out or something," Davis said.
"A video of the hit, as well as pictures from the hospital, will be taken into account in an independent review process", said OHA executive director Mark Ellis. "We will hopefully be having a final decision by Wednesday afternoon."
Strathroy head coach Dale Timmermans said the play, at 9:05 into the third period, was a hard hit but not illegal.
"It's very unfortunate," he said. "I feel sorry for Tanner Ferguson. He's a good kid. I've been trying to get him to play for me for years."
Thomas will be disciplined for his gesture, he said. How has not been decided.
It's important to remember that hockey is a dangerous sport, he said.
"I'm not pointing fingers or nothing," he said. "It's one of those things that happens in the game."
Ferguson, Davis said, is a "clean" hockey player and is the best defenceman on the Lambton Shores' team.
"It's just unfortunate what happened," he said.
Predators owner and general manager Roop Chanderdat helped carry Ferguson off ice to the dressing room.
"He was dead weight when you were carrying," he said. "He didn't know where he was and his face, it was a mess. He was bleeding pretty good."
He called the hit and the ensuing gesture a "disgrace," noting checks to the head have been a target recently for hockey leagues, including the NHL.
"This is what the league is trying to get rid of," he said. "Hits to the head, there's zero tolerance for that now."
He credited Strathroy hospital and the Predators' training staff for how they handled the situation