NEW GLASGOW - Garrett Holmes of the Pictou County Crushers is thankful for the support of his teammates and community.
Holmes, who has Tourette syndrome, appeared to be mocked by Truro Bearcats captain Phillip Fife during a Maritime Junior Hockey League exhibition game last Thursday.
The incident sparked several fights among the rival teams, which led to an investigation by the Maritime Hockey League. The MHL has since ruled there was inconclusive evidence to act further than the penalties handed out during the game.
"As for what happened last Thursday there was an incident in front of the net and it was mocking the physical symptoms (of Tourette's) with the head twitching, and the words ‘twitch, twitch, twitch' were repeated," said Holmes, who spoke publically for the first time since last Thursday's game. "I'm a pretty laid back guy and I usually don't fight or anything unless I absolutely have to - or it's for the team or something - but at that moment it just set me off and I personally thought it was too far. "
Holmes explained that the two major symptoms of Tourette's he deals with are motor tics and facial tics. He said motor tics are uncontrollable urges to jerk or twitch a body part, such as his arms, shoulders, neck or legs. He said facial tics are essentially the same thing, but it affects specific parts of his face.
"Basically they stick around or the urge continues until the point that you twitch so much that you either satisfy the urge or it just goes away," he said. "Sometimes it can be physically uncomfortable if it takes a long time to satisfy. Facial tics are basically the same things, but they're in parts of my face - my eyebrows or my nose will twitch on the ice sometimes. They get worse in stressful situations, like school, hockey or something like that."
This isn't the first time Holmes has been made fun of for the condition during his hockey career.
"We thought it was dealt with last year and it wasn't I guess, other than that the league - for the suspension part of it - they looked into it and there wasn't enough conclusive evidence. I guess we have to put that behind us and start worrying about the season and what's best for the guys in the room."
Holmes said he just wants to get back to playing hockey and working with the team to prepare for the regular season, which kicks off for the Crushers on Saturday in Dieppe.
"We need to get past it and start focusing on the little things with our game and get a game plan in play," he said. "I just want to thank the community, my teammates and everyone in the (Weeks Hockey) Organization, especially everyone in the community and our fans. They've been extremely supportive and it's just overwhelming and heart fulfilling. It's amazing what they've been doing and how much they've been standing up for me. It's people like that, that inspire the change. I mean without them it probably would've just been swept under the rug and never noticed again.
"It makes me extremely proud to be from Pictou County."
Wade Taylor, president of the Weeks Hockey Organization, said he's extremely proud of Holmes and the positive change that he hopes to see by discussing the issue at hand. Taylor said the organization had no further comment on last week's game and that its focus is now on this weekend's game.
"We're back to playing hockey and I'm not going to be in a position to make any further comments about anybody else that's involved, outside of what the goals of our hockey club are," said Taylor. "Just like Garrett said, there's been a lot of positive outflow to him. I know he's a pretty classy guy that always keeps his emotions in check, so good on him for being to hopefully enact some positive change and leadership and hopefully be a mentor to some young kids that are being bullied or discriminated against."
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