ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A local youth hockey association is not responsible for a brawl that erupted among spectators at a 2006 tournament for 13-year-olds, the state's highest court ruled Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed by Raymond Pink, who received a head injury in the melee following the game between teams from Rome and Whitestown. He had argued that the Rome Youth Hockey Association failed to enforce a "zero tolerance" policy on violence in the stands.
The court ruled, however, that the hockey association could not have foreseen the incident. The man who struck Pink later pleaded guilty to assault.
"The criminal assault ... was not a reasonably foreseeable result of any failure to take preventative measures," the court ruled.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals granted the hockey association's motion for summary judgment, ending the case.
The game featured several on-ice fights between players, some of whom were ejected. The Whitestown coach was also ejected. After the game, two female spectators began fighting, prompting a brawl involving several others.
Rome Youth Hockey Association attorney Matthew Kelly said a ruling that his client had a responsibility to prevent the fight would have devastated youth sports leagues around the state. Many are run by volunteers, he said, and lack the resources to hire private security.
"The plaintiff was attempting to greatly expand the responsibility of youth recreation leagues," Kelly told The Associated Press.
Attorney Andrew Kirby, who represented Pink, disputed that claim. He said his client's argument was simply that the hockey association failed to follow its own rules regarding unruly spectators.
He said that hopefully the case will shine a light on adult behavior that shouldn't be tolerated at youth sports events.
"People need to be responsible," he said. "Parents have to act responsibly at these things because the children are watching."
Pink also sued Matthew Ricci, the man who pleaded guilty to the assault charge, and the city of Rome, which owned the area that hosted the tournament. The city and Ricci agreed to undisclosed settlements, according to court papers. The Whitestown Youth Hockey Association was also named as a defendant but was dropped from the suit by a lower court that ruled it did not have the potential level of responsibility as the Rome Youth Hockey Association, which had leased the arena.