Saturday, June 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Career-Ending Body-Check Spurs Lawsuit

CHICAGO (CN) - A hockey player says in court that he will never be able to play the sport again because of injuries he suffered from an illegal body check.

Chicago Express hockey player Joseph Cucci sued Pennsylvania Reading Royals Hockey Club and its player, Todd Griffith, for violating East Coast Hockey League rules against "back-checks" - that is, hitting a player whose back is turned and who does not have the puck - during a January game at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

"The illegal check occurred when Griffith hit Cucci who had his back turned, was skating towards his team bench, was without the puck, and was nowhere near any of the game action," the seven-page complaint states.

Griffith's hit allegedly drove Cucci's face into the middle stanchion that divides the two player benches, severely injuring Cucci's neck and back.

Although Griffith was penalized for the check, "Cucci is still suffering the injuries and the affects [sic] of Griffith's illegal body check," according to the complaint.

Cucci claims that Griffith's conduct violated his duty to refrain from exhibiting "willful and wanton or intentional misconduct" toward other players.

The body check allegedly caused Cucci "substantial permanent and painful personal injuries, painful significant rehabilitation, among other injuries."

"These injuries may not yet be fully healed and it is uncertain whether Cucci will have any recurrence of injury sustained as a result of being struck by the defendant Griffith," according to the complaint.

Cucci further claims that the back-check rendered him "unable to play the sport of hockey for the remainder of his life."

By keeping Griffith on the ice, the Royals violated their duty "to act (1) without the intent to cause him injury or (2) engage in conduct that was within the range of ordinary activity within the sport," according to the complaint.

In fact, Cucci alleges that "it was foreseeable to [the] Royals that allowing Griffith to participate in the hockey game on January 7, 2012 could cause Cucci serious bodily injury."

"Since 'back-checking' is a violation of the rules of hockey, holding [the] Royals liable will not have a chilling effect on the way that hockey is performed," Cucci added.

The athlete seeks more than $50,000 in compensatory damages for negligence. He is represented by LeeAnn Crow with James J. Roche and Associates.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.