MONTREAL - Junior hockey was making sense of another head-hunting incident Monday after Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts was sent to hospital by an elbow from Rouyn-Noranda centre Patrice Cormier, who captained Canada at the recent world junior hockey championship.
Cormier caught Tam with an elbow while skating through the neutral zone during overtime of Quebec's 3-2 shootout win at Dave Keon Arena in Rouyn-Noranda on Sunday afternoon.
The 18-year-old defenceman went into convulsions and was taken to hospital after the hit, where he is listed in stable condition with brain trauma and several damaged teeth.
Remparts coach Patrick Roy, who said he had feared for Tam's life after witnessing the hit, was optimistic after visiting Tam in hospital.
"I had a chance to see him and when I was there, the doctor told us everything was going well," Roy said. "With the head and the neck, everything's normal."
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League gave Cormier an indefinite suspension on Monday and will continue to investigate the incident. No timeline was provided on when league disciplinarian Raymond Bolduc will issue a ruling.
"I'll leave it to the league to make the fairest decision," Roy said. "I have confidence in our league. Clearly, we're expecting a very severe sanction."
It was the second incident in junior hockey in less than a week. On Thursday, newly acquired Zack Kassian of the Windsor Spitfires left his feet to flatten Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts with what appeared to be a hit to the head.
Kennedy suffered a concussion and required stitches to close facial wounds. Kassian was given a charging major and a game misconduct. He was also suspended indefinitely and is to meet with Ontario Hockey League commissioner Dave Branch on Tuesday in Windsor.
Remparts spokesman Nicole Bouchard said Tam underwent a brain scan after the game and that a second scan on Monday morning showed no deterioration in his condition. He is to remain in hospital for a second night for observation and is expected to be released Tuesday morning.
The Remparts website was encouraging fans to send in "get well" messages for the 18-year-old defenceman.
Quebec provincial police questioned witnesses at the rink after the game. Police spokesman Marie-Josee Ouellet said the incident is under investigation to see if there are grounds for criminal charges. Roy said the Remparts are considering filing an assault complaint.
"Right after the game, I had a conversation with our president, Claude Rousseau, and if you're asking the Remparts, it's obvious we're looking in that direction," he said.
Video of the incident shows Cormier coming off the bench and heading towards Tam, who started his rush from behind the goal. Cormier caught him with the elbow near centre ice, dropping him.
Three players and a trainer rushed Tam off the ice on a stretcher.
Cormier is known as a physical player. He hammered Sweden's Anton Rodin with a similar elbow to the face near the players' benches during an exhibition game ahead of the world juniors last month.
The 19-year-old from Cap-Pele, N.B., was drafted by New Jersey in the second round in 2008 and signed a three-year entry level contract with the Devils last summer.
The draft-eligible Tam had scored his 10th goal of the season for the Remparts earlier in the game.
There was speculation that the QMJHL, which has come down hard on cases of violence this season, will suspend Cormier for the rest of the season and perhaps for the playoffs.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters he doubts the punishment will be that severe.
"I'm not the judge or jury, but in my opinion, no," he said, adding he also doubted any criminal charges would be laid.
The QMJHL came under fire for lax policies against violence last season when Remparts goaltender Jonathan Roy, son of Patrick Roy, skated the length of the ice to lay a beating on Chicoutimi Sagueneens goalie Bobby Nadeau. The league reacted with stiffer suspensions for fighting and dangerous hits.
Some reports said it was Patrick Roy who called the police after the Cormier hit.
The Huskies and Remparts lead their respective divisions this season and both are considered contenders for the QMJHL title.
The Cormier and Kassian cases both involved players who recently changed teams. Cormier was in only his third game with the Huskies since he was traded by the Rimouski Oceanic on Jan. 7. Kassian, the former Peterborough Petes captain and a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, was playing his first game for the Spitfires.