Former Regina hockey coach convicted of sexual assault sentenced to three years

A Saskatchewan judge has handed a three-year sentence to a former Western Hockey League coach found guilty of inappropriately touching and hitting a teenage player 35 years ago.

Justice Peter Bergbusch told court Friday that Bernard Lynch, a former assistant coach with the Regina Pats hockey team, is to serve his sentence in federal prison.

The judge convicted Lynch in December of sexual assault and assault of a 17-year-old in 1988.

The player cannot be identified.

Bergbusch told court he found Lynch’s testimony to be inconsistent and that the evidence supplied by the player was straightforward and truthful.

The judge said the former coach took advantage of the youth and the culture of silence in hockey.

Crown prosecutor Chris White told reporters Lynch carefully chose his victim and knew he wouldn’t speak out due to the stigma in doing so.

“I hope that this brings him some closure,” White said. “This has been halfway through his fourth decade in dealing with this.”

Lynch told the judge Friday he did not commit the crime.

Defence lawyer Andrew Hitchcock said later outside court that the former coach plans to appeal.

“For someone in his position, he’s not looking at it the way a lawyer looks at it. He’s just saying, ‘I didn’t do this. I want to appeal,’ which is what anybody in his situation would do,” Hitchcock said.

During sentencing arguments earlier this month, the player told court in his victim impact statement he had skated ever since he was little, with dreams to play in the National Hockey League.

The player said Lynch crushed his aspirations and love for the game.

“I didn’t trust people, I didn’t trust in my relationships. I felt like people looked at me differently and I wondered if there was something wrong with me,” he told court in early January.

“I felt damaged, I felt shame and it was constantly on my mind.”

They player said he found the courage to press charges years later after feeling guilty for not doing so sooner.

His family gave him strength, he added.

“Accountability is a word you hear all the time in hockey. Bernie Lynch, you needed to be held accountable.”

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