Patrice Cormier will not accept his suspension by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after all.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies said Tuesday they will appeal the suspension handed Cormier for his hit to the head of Quebec Remparts defenceman Mikael Tam. Coach and general manager Andre Tourigny said on a conference call that the suspension for the rest of the season and the playoffs was "excessive."
"He could serve up to 48 games, that's too much," Tourigny added.
Later, Cormier read a short statement to The Canadian Press over the telephone. It said:
"I respect the decision of the QMJHL even if I find it too severe. I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and I wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for your attention."
He declined to answer questions on the decision.
Earlier Tuesday, the Huskies centre had seemed to suggest he had accepted the league's ruling in statement released through his Halifax-based agent Tim Cranston.
"I fully respect the Quebec Major Junior League's decision regarding the Mikael Tam incident," Cormier said in that statement. "I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery."
A spokesman for the QMJHL said in an email that the league had no comment on the appeal and added it had yet to receive the appropriate paperwork. No date for a hearing has been set and Cormier will remain suspended during the appeal process.
The league gave one of the longest suspensions in its history to Cormier on Monday for his hit in a Jan. 17 game that sent Tam into convulsions and left the 18-year-old with brain trauma and several broken teeth.
Cormier, who served as captain of Canada's team at the world junior championship, had already served two games and is to miss the Huskies' 18 remaining regular season games, plus the playoffs.
The 19-year-old New Jersey Devils prospect had a five-day window to appeal.
Tourigny called Cormier's hit "regrettable" and that the team accepted that it deserved "severe" punishment, but that the league went too far.
The Huskies were gunning for a league championship and participation in the Memorial Cup tournament and made a handful of trades in the January dealing window to bolster their roster with experienced talent.
Among them was a trade with the Rimouski Oceanic to land Canadian junior team players Cormier and Jordan Caron in exchange for two 17-year-olds and a package of draft picks. They also acquired defenceman Steven Delisle and forward Antoine Quevillon from other clubs.
Cormier was in only his third game with the Huskies when the hit on Tam took place.
Video of the ugly hit has been replayed numerous times over the past week. On the play, Cormier came off his team's bench and caught Tam with an elbow in the neutral zone, sending the Quebec defenceman into convulsions.
Tam spent two days in hospital with head trauma before returning to Quebec City last week.