In a sport engulfed in the constant buzz coming from the media, one particular story escaped the wrath and became unnoticed. Until now. This is the story of a young man, one who worked his way around a charge of manslaughter and became a winger for the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League. The story is amazing: how a simple “mistake” led to a trial and a sentence, yet the person who made the mistake is now in the NHL.
In 2007, Casey Cizikas tackled Manny Castillo in a rugby game, inside the town of Missisagua. Cizikas got up just fine. Castillo didn’t. Castillo was pronounced dead in a hospital just two days later. The truth remains unclear: nobody knows whether it was an accident or on purpose? Some reports say that Cizikas’ tackle was just ‘part of the game.’ Others don’t agree. Nobody knows the full story, due to conflicting testimonies and false reporting, but one thing is for sure; the Castillo murder story is some story. Cizikas claims that he was in a headlock, and what he did was in self- defense. Other witnesses say that Cizikas used a pile- driver move to knock Castillo to the ground.
Doctors say that Castillo suffered a major concussion just two weeks before, and one doctor commented that Castillo shouldn’t have been playing sports for an entire year. The Castillo family, believing that their son’s murder was an accident, called for Cizikas to be spared from punnishment. Unfortunately for Cizikas, the circumstances of Castillo’s death made it impossible for Cizikas to get off the hook. Cizikas was charged with manslaughter in 2009, and received 1 year probation and community service. At the courthouse, Castillo’s father pleaded for fighting in youth hockey to stop, but never once pointed a finger at Casey Cizikas, at least from what we are told.
“Oh…that’s…they are special people. I don’t even know what to say about them. It was a terrible, terrible accident. They have never, not once, pointed fingers. It’s hard for me to talk about them. They know how I feel.” – Casey Cizikas on the Castillo family
Cizikas still feels what he has done, more then five years later. The Islanders forward was once relying on hockey to get him though tough times, but sees hope for him in hockey. “Coming to the rink every day means everything to me. Being with my friends, my coaches. It releases my stress, at least for a few hours,” Cizikas said in an Islanders Point Blank interview in 2009. “The New York Islanders are behind me, they have made that clear. I have an NHL team that believes in me. You know what that means after everything has happened? I’m going to do everything I can to show their faith in me was not wasted. I think I work pretty hard, but now I’m going to work twice as hard to become an Islander and pay them back for their loyalty.”
The 23 year old has put up very good numbers in the NHL, and has stuck to the promise that he made in the quote above. In less then three seasons, Cizikas has scored 11 goals and 21 assists, and averages a goal on every 9.3% of shots. Cizikas’ story is the story of a sports player who really was on the wrong side of things, but bounced back and proved that anything is possible. Dreams do come true, even with Casey Cizikas.