EHC Olten defenceman Ronny Keller, 33, suffered a serious spinal column injury that paralyzed the lower half of his body after being checked by SC Langenthal right-winger Stefan Schnyder during a March 5th game.
The body check that sent Keller flying into the boards was ruled accidental by Reto Steinmann, a judge for the National League, which has halted a criminal procedure for aggravated assault against Schnyder, 29.
“Misconduct by Stefan Schnyder has not been established, even if the consequences were tragic and hard to imagine for Keller,” the National League said in a statement issued on Monday.
Referees were right to hand Schnyder a match penalty for an “ordinary” check against the boards in addition to a fine, the judge said.
But expertise sought to look at the mechanics of the incident concluded that Keller initiated contact, not Schnyder, while dangerously close to the boards.
Steinmann conceded that Schnyder had struck out with his right hand during the collision but that the player “could not have known in this situation that his opponent was already wiped out”.
Schnyder cannot be reproached from profiting from a dangerous situation that he did not create, the judge ruled.
He also noted that Schnyder had not checked Keller with his body or elbow and had not used any unauthorized techniques to hit his opponent.
Nonetheless, a YouTube video of the incident caused much concern about hockey violence, particularly after the extent of injuries to Keller became known.