Hockey locker room assault prompts statewide investigation

A statewide disciplinary advisory group for the South Dakota Amateur Hockey Association will meet this week following an assault between two players in Mitchell that left one of them hospitalized with serious head injury.

“Unfortunately, this is a very serious matter,” said Dan French, the director of the state association. “We are taking this very, very seriously.”

Mitchell police captured a 17-year-old boy in connection with the assault, which happened in a locker room at the Mitchell Activities Center on Dec. 21. A video of the incident indicates two boys wearing helmets fighting while a few other boys cheer them on.One of the boys more than once beats the other over the head before slamming him to the floor.

Mitchell police say a 15-year-old boy was hospitalized following the occurrence. He has since been discharged.

Lyndon Overweg, Mitchell’s head of public safety, declined to remark past what the department issued in a discharge. At present the 17-year-old is being prosecuted in juvenile court, and his name has not been released.

“Depending on several factors, it is possible for a juvenile to be transferred to adult court in some instances,” the release says. “However, that decision is determined throughout the legal process involving the states attorney and the court system.”

The state hockey association has been conducting a separate investigation, and its 13-member disciplinary committee will meet Thursday to determine if more punishment is warranted. The Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association has effectively handed down a number of punishments, French said. One player has been suspended for the season, one player for four games and three of four team captains have been stripped of their titles. Other players who were recognized as having cell phones in the locker room additionally face suspensions.

Also, the head coach was suspended eight games and two associates four games, French said. He confirmed that there were no adults in the locker room, a violation of both state and USA Hockey policies.

French, who described the incident as “disturbing,” said the team was not allowed to play this past weekend. The disciplinary committee will choose whether those games can be made up or whether they will be canceled.

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