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Hockey and racist slurs spark post-bar fight

Cordell Peter Dame in a wheelchair leaves Port Coquitlam Provincial Court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national accused of aggravated assaulted. Harding
Cordell Peter Dame in a wheelchair leaves Port Coquitlam Provincial Court with his family on the first day of a trial for Trevor Harding, an Irish national accused of aggravated assaulted. Harding's lawyer said Dame was the aggressor in the fight.
— image credit: The New/Files

A drunken argument over hockey sparked a fight last year that left a Pitt Meadows man paralyzed and an Irish national facing a trial for aggravated assault.

Trevor Harding, a resident of Tipperary, Ireland, and his friends watched the Canucks lose to Nashville 2-1 on April 30, 2011, then went for a few drinks at Shooter's pub on 207th Street in Maple Ridge.

They left the pub when it closed at 2 a.m. and were walking along Dewdney Trunk Road when someone across the street yelled "Luongo sucks."

Thomas Byrne, who was with Harding that night, was wearing a blue Canuck's jersey.

Testifying in Harding's defence on Wednesday during a trial in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court, Byrne described the argument as a lot of "trash talking."

Harding, Byrne and another man, however, decided to cross the street, where Cordell Peter Dame and his friend Tim Toth were, and the tiff escalated.

They noticed Trevor [Harding] had an accent, said Byrne.

"They referred to him as dirty Mexican."

The shouting continued with Dame telling Harding "he did not belong here."

Byrne revealed he and his friends were then threatened by Dame, who said he had "connections" to the Hell's Angels.

Dame's families vehemently denies any connections to the outlaw motorcycle gang, and ascribes his comment to drunken bravado, but revealed Dame cleaned the Haney chapter's club house in Pitt Meadows a few years ago.

Dame owned and ran his own business, Clean-Pro Janitorial, before the fight left him with life-altering injuries.

After the racist slurs, the argument between Harding and Dame got psychical.

Byrne said Dame pushed Harding, who said there was no need to fight.

He told the court when Harding was pushed for a second time, he retaliated.

He punched Dame once and knocked him to the ground.

Byrne said they left the area, but were followed by Dame's friend, who told the trio he'd never forget their faces.

Byrne claimed the threat prompted him to switch jerseys with Harding, who was dressed in a red soccer shirt.

Crown prosecutor Peter Ng confronted Byrne with discrepancies between his testimony in court and a statement he gave to police soon after the incident.

Ng asked Byrne why he and his friends decided to cross the street.

"Crossing the street was something provocative ... there was a real likelihood of an altercation," said Ng.

Ng also asked Byrne whether Harding kicked Dame while he was on the ground.

"He didn't boot him. It was more like a nudge," replied Byrne.

The minutes-long encounter between Dame and Harding has serious consequences for both. Dame was knocked unconscious. He sustained injuries to his face and brain that left him in a  coma for more than a month. He remains partially paralysed.

Harding, who had arrived in Canada in February 2011, has been devastated by the charges, according to his lawyer.

The Irish rally champ's passport was seized and he's been languishing in a foreign country with little support. His friends travelled to Canada from Ireland to support him during the trial.

"Dame was the aggressor in this situation," John Cheevers, Harding's lawyer, told the court during closing arguments.

"My client unfortunately stood in and tried to diffuse the situation."

Cheevers also asked the judge to discount testimony given by George Nestor, a taxi driver who came to pick up Dame and his friend and witnessed the assault.

It's not consistent with the testimony of all the other witnesses, said Cheevers.

Provincial court Judge Rory Walters is set to deliver his decision on the trial in November.

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