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Injured B.C. hockey player alleges assault, negligence in lawsuit

Kitimat Ice Demons player alleged fractured orbital bones, cheek bones and a fractured jaw.
Hockey Player Shooting the Puck with Hockey Stick
A January hockey game incident has led to the filing of a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court.

A B.C. hockey player is suing another player as well as national and provincial hockey organizations for injuries he suffered in a game in Hazelton Jan. 28.

A B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim filed Dec. 18 said plaintiff Steven Ronald Venman was playing when he alleges Milo Johnson struck him in violation of BC Hockey and Hockey Canada rules.

Also named as defendants are the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine and the Skeena Ice Arena Association.

Venman’s lawyer Nathaniel Hartney said Venman was a player with the Kitimat Ice Demons and Johnson was a player with the Hazelton Wolverines. (The teams are Central Interior Hockey League "AA" senior men's teams.)

Venman asserts in the claim he was negligently struck by Johnson.

“In the alternative, Johnson’s actions constituted an assault and battery,” the claim said. “At the time of the incident, the plaintiff was conducting himself in a safe and prudent manner.”

Specifically, the claim said Johnson struck Venman “outside the rules of the hockey game, behaviour that cannot be seen as a reasonable hockey play.”

The court documents state Johnson struck Venman ignoring the other defendants’ instructions, and/or rules, and/or training, and/or guidelines if any were in place.

“Johnson failed to abide by sportsmanship expectations and to play the game fairly and honourably, by causing injuries to the plaintiff,” the claim said.

The lawsuit said Venman suffered fractured orbital bones, cheek bones and a fractured jaw as well as a torn ligament in his shoulder and a concussion.

“The injuries have caused and continue to cause the plaintiff pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent physical disability, loss of physical, mental, and emotional health, loss of earnings, past and prospective, loss of competitive advantage, loss of opportunity to earn income, loss of income earning capacity, and a shortened working life,” the claim said.

The claim alleges the defendants, among other things:

• failed to take any or reasonable care to ensure that the plaintiff would be reasonably safe in using the premises;

• fostered an environment in which unacceptable behaviours, such as Johnson’s, would be tolerated and/or go unchecked;

• allowed Johnson to be a player and/or have contact with the plaintiff, when they knew, or ought to have known of Johnson’s unreasonable and violent propensities;

• failed to discipline and/or expel Johnson from their institutions, when they knew, or ought to have known of Johnson’s unreasonable and violent propensities;

• failed to ban Johnson from the premises, when they knew, or ought to have known of Johnson’s unreasonable and violent propensities;

• failed to have any system, or a proper system of self-reporting, peer reporting, other reporting, or counselling in place for Johnson or any other individual who could have helped prevent the incident;

• failed to monitor and/or properly screen Johnson prior to allowing him to be a player, and/or having contact with the plaintiff;

• failed to employ reasonable safeguards to ensure the plaintiff was safe when participating in activities and events ran by the defendants; 

• hired incompetent servants, agents, employees, contractors, associates and/or players; and,

• failed to warn of Johnson’s violent propensities, in time or at all, when they knew or ought to have known that the failure to do so exposed players, including the plaintiff, to an unusual danger.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Defendants’ comments

BC Hockey communications coordinator Nicholas Antaya said the organization does not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

The association and regional district did not respond. Johnson could not be located for comment but a message was left for him on Facebook.