Dad sues after puck shatters facial bones during Charlotte Checkers’ historic win

While the Charlotte Checkers celebrated a thrilling double-overtime playoff win that sent them into the Calder Cup Finals for the first time, a dad in the stands was in intense pain after an errant puck shattered bones in his face.

Michael Lenti of Rock Hill sued Charlotte’s tourism agency recently after he said the protective acrylic barrier at Bojangles’ Coliseum failed to keep the fast-moving puck in play.

Lenti said he bought seats to the May 26 playoff game 6 for him and his children that were behind the clear acrylic barrier that’s supposed to protect fans from pucks. The Checkers compete in the American Hockey League as the top minor league franchise of the NHL Carolina Hurricanes. They ended up winning the Calder Cup.

In his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, Lenti said a player on the opposite side of the rink and to the right of his family’s seats hit a puck “at a high rate of speed” toward a goal.

The puck was “sling-shot” around the horseshoe-shaped acrylic barrier behind the goal, but instead of redirecting the puck back onto the rink, the barrier “catapulted” the puck toward Lenti “at an extremely high rate of speed,” according to his lawsuit.

He was seated in the front row near the penalty box, “near the center of the side of the rink,” according to the lawsuit.

The puck caused “facial fractures and other significant injuries” from which Lenti still suffers, he said in the lawsuit. Pucks can reach speeds of nearly 100 mph, according to his lawsuit.

He seeks at least $75,000 in damages -- the amount of his “medical expenses, lost wages and disability” as a result of his injuries, according to the lawsuit.

Lenti said the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which manages Bojangles’ Coliseum for the city, failed to install barriers that redirect errant pucks back onto the ice instead of into the stands. Netting at the ends of the horseshoe-shaped protective barriers also were inadequate, according to his lawsuit.

In a statement to the Observer, authority spokeswoman Karen Brand said: “We certainly have empathy for the individual involved in the incident; however, we are unable to comment on pending legal matters.”

Authority officials will eventually have to file a written response to the lawsuit in court.

Lenti’s lawyer, Fred DeVore III of Charlotte, told the Observer he didn’t feel it appropriate to comment on a pending case, except to say Lenti “suffered multiple facial fractures as a result of being struck in the face with the errant puck.”

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.