Carson Briere, the 23-year-old son of Gatineau hockey great Daniel Briere, has been officially removed from the Mercyhurst University men’s hockey team, a Division 1 team in the NCAA.
Briere was temporarily suspended from the Mercyhurst Lakers hockey team shortly after security footage of him shoving an unoccupied wheelchair down a staircase at a bar in Erie, Pa., went viral.
Two weeks ago, Erie County pressed charges against Briere and Patrick Carrozzi, another Mercyhurst athlete, for the stunt after the wheelchair’s owner filed a complaint listing extensive damage to her chair.
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On Monday night, Mercyhurst Athletics announced that Briere “has been removed” from the university’s hockey team.
“Mercyhurst cannot comment further on this matter,” the statement concluded.
This trail of consequences for Briere began on March 11, when he was caught on surveillance camera walking up to the entryway of a dance floor at Sullivan’s Pub in Erie with three other people before sitting down in an empty wheelchair. The footage shows Briere trying to maneuver around before he gets up and shoves the chair down the stairs. The wheelchair flips over and the seat cushion comes off during the descent.
Footage of the incident was posted to Twitter on March 14 by an employee of Sullivan’s Pub, who said she knows the owner of the wheelchair and “just can’t stomach the thought of this kid getting away with it.”
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The next day, Briere and two other Mercyhurst athletes who were with him that night were placed on interim suspension.
The small university of around 3,000 students added that Briere’s actions fell short of respecting “the inherent dignity of each person” and the university is standing “in solidarity with the victim and all persons with disabilities who rightfully find actions like this to be deeply offensive.”
A week later, Briere and Carrozzi were both charged with criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief — both misdemeanours — as well as disorderly conduct, a summary offence.
Police say their actions posed a potential danger to anyone coming up the stairs, while also creating a hazardous condition by blocking the staircase.
The wheelchair’s owner, Sydney Benes, 22, filed a complaint after the incident, listing all the ways her chair had been damaged. Benes is a double amputee who lost her foot and leg in a fire after her car crashed in 2021. To be mobile, she said, she needs the chair while she learns to use her prosthetics.
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Benes wrote in the complaint that the chair’s fall down the stairs damaged the left brake handle, broke the right armrest’s plastic moulding, bent a rear handle and caused the wheels to drag when moving forward. She added that the wheelchair was purchased a year ago for US$2,000.
Both Briere and his father Daniel apologized for the incident through the Philadelphia Flyers, where Daniel serves as interim general manager, shortly after the incriminating video was posted to Twitter.
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Briere wrote: “I am deeply sorry for my behavior on Saturday. There is no excuse for my actions, and I will do whatever I can to make up for this serious lack of judgment.”
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Daniel Briere, who was a top NHL player during his 17-year stint in the league, said he was shocked to see his son’s actions in the video.
“They are inexcusable and run completely counter to our family’s values on treating people with respect,” he said. “Carson is very sorry and accepts full responsibility for his behavior.”
Carson Briere previously was dismissed from Arizona State’s hockey club in 2019 for what the school called a violation of team rules, the Associated Press reported.
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Employees of Sullivan’s Pub, where the incident took place, organized a GoFundMe page to help Benes raise money to replace her wheelchair.
The organizer of the campaign, Nathaniel Sanders, wrote that Benes’ chair was left alone in the stairwell that night because she was using the restroom at the bottom of the stairs. Sullivan’s Pub was built before accessible design requirements were enacted, so “I personally physically carry her down the stairs any time she has to use the restroom.”
The initial goal of US$1,500 has far been surpassed, with the amount raised sitting just under US$9,000 as of press time. Benes wrote on Twitter that she is looking to donate the extra money and thanked the staff at Sullivan’s Pub for helping her through this ordeal.
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