NORTHFIELD, Vt. – A former men's hockey captain at Norwich University was in a coma in very critical condition Sunday after being beaten outside a Toronto bar early Saturday, police said.
Asked Sunday if Serba had died, as a Vermont radio station had reported, Merritt said, "Not yet."
Police said on Saturday that Serba had been with friends at a bar in the city and left at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday to go across the street to an automatic teller machine. A short time later, he returned to the bar and told his friends a man had "sucker-punched" him on the street.
Serba and his friends went out looking for the man, and Serba met up with him in what police described as a lane near the bar. Police said Serba was struck in the head with a brick. "Then he was stomped on when he was on the ground," Merritt said.
The detective said Serba took "about a half dozen" blows to the head in all.
He said the motive was "probably robbery, we don't know. The man we have in custody isn't talking."
Witnesses told police that the suspect fled the area in a taxi van. He was arrested a short time later. Police identified him as Nicholas Crowdis, 22, of Toronto, and said he would face a charge of attempted murder.
The crime cast a pall over Norwich's Kreitzberg Arena, where the Cadets rallied to defeat Plattsburgh State 4-2 Saturday in the championship game of the Primeline Great Northern Shootout tourney.
Norwich players hung Serba's No. 20 jersey over their bench. In the traditional trip around the ice after the victory, some players held the trophy aloft, while others raised Serba's jersey.
"I've never seen the place as emotional as that place was last night," George Commo, the veteran radio play-by-play announcer on Norwich games for WDEV in Waterbury, said Sunday.
Serba, who received his undergraduate degree earlier this year, was continuing to live in Northfield with members of the Norwich hockey team and taking graduate courses. The native of Etobicoke, in suburban Toronto, had gone home for the Thanksgiving weekend.
After the beating, Serba was taken first to St. Joseph's Health Care and then to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, which has a neurological intensive care unit.
A staff member who answered the phone in that unit on Sunday said it was hospital policy not to give out any information on patients. Merritt said Serba had suffered brain trauma and was on life-support.