Sports Law • Risk Management

Hockey Dad Accused of Shining Laser at Goalie: The Risks of Lasers in Sport

A hockey Dad allegedly pointed a laser beam into the eyes of the goalie of the opposing hockey team playing his daughter’s high school team in an important game this week. Once his dangerous behavior was observed by the school’s assistant superintendent, she ordered that the man leave the rink. The outcome of the game was not changed even though there was an appeal. The man was charged with disturbing the peace and will have to appear in court to face such charges. On the morning news, I heard that he was or might be charged with assault and battery. This is yet another case in which a parent interferes with his child’s game.

However, the alleged behavior of this hockey Dad seems somehow worse than most, because the laser could have caused damage to the player’s eyes, or temporarily blinded or distracted her causing injury. She may have even injured others, because of her inability to see properly.

Although a hockey game is not as serious as flying an aircraft, it should be noted that anyone who shines a laser up at an aircraft could be fined and imprisoned for up to 5 years. The concern is that when laser light is shone into a pilot’s eyes it causes glare or possibly temporary flashblindness and afterimages. A laser might be mistaken for the aiming device of a weapon, which can cause alarm to pilots or anyone else that is targeted with a laser. Imagine the use of a laser at a high profile, well attended event, such as the Super Bowl. Would police shoot first and ask questions later if a laser was shone on an athlete?

In the case of the hockey Dad accused of shining a laser, it seems that the school acted properly by ordering that he immediately leave and by pressing charges. It is reasonable to develop risk management policies and procedures regarding lasers so that you event is prepared in case the situation occurs.