Whether it’s a minor hockey league or the NHL, criminal charges stemming from on-ice behaviour are rare.
Players consent to a certain level of violence when they lace up their skates, whether it’s absorbing a hard bodycheck, or in some cases, dropping the gloves and exchanging bare-knuckle punches.
But there are times when the level of violence exceeds what has been deemed acceptable and the long arm of the law occasionally extends onto ice level. That was the case when a teenage hockey player in Ottawa was recently charged after a hit from behind.
Here’s three of the most notorious cases where an NHL player was charged, and convicted, after an attack during a game.
Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punches Steve Moore from behind
The incident: Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore was a wanted man after he laid a hard check on Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund on Feb. 16, 2004. Naslund was in a vulnerable position and he suffered a concussion on the play, knocking him out of the lineup for three games. On Mar. 8, the Canucks sought revenge. Moore fought Matt Cooke, but that didn’t suffice for the Canucks. Late in a lopsided game, Bertuzzi appeared to be stalking Moore before unleashing a powerful sucker punch to the back of his head. Moore tumbled to the ice, with the full weight of Bertuzzi, and other players, piling on. Moore was stretchered off the ice with three broken vertebrae. He never played again.
The outcome: Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the season plus seven playoff games, totaling 20 games. Bertuzzi was charged with criminal assault causing bodily harm. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year probation and 80 hours of community service. Moore subsequently sued Bertuzzi and the Canucks, reaching a settlement a decade after the incident.
Marty McSorley slashes Donald Brashear in the head
The incident: An aging Marty McSorley had his hands full when he dropped the gloves with heavyweight Donald Brashear during a game between the Bruins and Canucks on February 21, 2000. Brashear got the best of McSorley and the brash enforcer rubbed it in, dusting off his hands and mocking his opponent. McSorley, seeking to save face, tried to entice Brashear into another bout later in the game, but Brashear wouldn’t take the bait. McSorley trailed Brashear as he skated down the ice, suddenly slashing him hard on the side of the head. Brashear toppled to the ice unconscious. McSorly was suspended for the remainder of the season (23 games) and never played again in the NHL. He was later charged with assault.
The outcome: McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon and was sentenced to 18 months probation.
Dino Ciccarelli clubs Luke Richardson:
The incident: Ciccarelli was a skilled forward with a temper. So when he was rubbed out along the boards by bruising rookie Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson during a game at Maple Leaf Gardens on January 6, 1988, he took exception. But Dino took things a bit too far, clubbing a stunned-looking Richardson several times with his stick. Ciccarelli was tossed from the game and later handed a 10-game suspension.
The outcome: Ciccarelli was charged and convicted of assault. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to one day in jail.