Violence in ice hockey
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Violence has been a part of ice hockey since at least the early 1900s. According to the book Hockey: A People's History, in 1904 alone, four players were killed during hockey games from the frequent brawls and violent stickwork.
More modern examples of violence include brawls, fan involvement, physical abuse of officials and deliberately injuring opponents. Violent actions such as kicking, hitting from behind and prohibited stickwork, are penalized with suspensions or fines. Fighting, or fisticuffs, is also penalized but is considered by many hockey enthusiasts, particularly in North America, to be quite distinct from stick-swinging or other violent acts. They regard fighting as an entrenched, acceptable and an integral part of the game.
On the ice, referees may impose penalties for prohibited activities. Off the ice, the National Hockey League (NHL) sometimes fines, suspends or expels players. The criminal justice system has also been known to investigate, charge and convict players. As a result, hockey has become much more regulated and the violent element much more controlled. This has been aided, in no small part, by dramatic increases in disciplinary processes and technology allowing for a high level of scrutiny of any event which occurs.
Early hockey in particular was noted for its extreme violence, to the point where two players were killed in three years during brawls. In both cases, the accused assailants were acquitted, but these and other bloody incidents led to calls for the sport to clean up its act or be banned along with the likes of cockfighting. The worst of the violence waned, particularly with the advent of regulations for quasi-legal fisticuffs, though incidents continue to occur from time to time.
Billy Coutu was the first, and to date only, player banned from the NHL for life for violence in 1927; he assaulted referee Jerry Laflamme and tackled referee Billy Bell before starting a bench-clearing brawl during a Stanley Cup game between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators, apparently on the orders of Bruins Head Coach Art Ross. The NHL's first president, Frank Calder, expelled Coutu from the NHL for life; the ban was lifted after two-and-a-half years, but Coutu never played in the NHL again.
Other incidents include the December 12, 1933, event when Eddie Shore rammed Toronto Maple Leafs star Ace Bailey from behind, causing Bailey to strike his head on the ice; Bailey never played hockey again. More recently, controversy and criminal charges have resulted from violent attacks by Marty McSorley, Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Simon.
Reports investigating violence
There have been two major Canadian reports on violence in hockey. In 1974, William McMurtry provided a report for the Government of Ontario entitled Investigation and Inquiry into Violence in Amateur Hockey. In 2000, Bernie Pascall prepared a report for the Government of British Columbia entitled Eliminating Violence in Hockey.
On-ice incidents resulting in charges
- 1905 – Allan Loney was charged with manslaughter in the on-ice clubbing death of Alcide Laurin. Loney claimed self-defence, and was found not guilty.
- 1907 – Ottawa Senators players Harry Smith, Alf Smith and Charles Spittal were charged with assault after beating Montreal Wanderers players Hod Stuart, Ernie "Moose" Johnson and Cecil Blatchford with their sticks.
- 1907 – Ottawa Victorias player Charles Masson was charged with manslaughter after Cornwall player Owen McCourt died of a head wound sustained in a brawl. Masson was found not guilty on the grounds that there was no way to know which blow had killed McCourt.
- 1922 – Sprague Cleghorn injured three Ottawa Senators players in a brawl, leading Ottawa police to offer to arrest him.
- 1969 – In a pre-season game held in Ottawa, Ted Green of the Boston Bruins and Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues engaged in a violent, stick-swinging brawl. A fractured skull and brain damage caused Green to miss the entire 1969–70 season. The NHL suspended Maki for 30 days and Green for 13 games. Both men were acquitted in court.
- 1975 – Dan Maloney of the Detroit Red Wings was charged with assault causing bodily harm after he attacked Brian Glennie of the Toronto Maple Leafs from behind. In exchange for a no-contest plea, Maloney did community service work and was banned from playing in Toronto for two seasons.
- 1975 – Police charged Bruins player Dave Forbes with aggravated assault after a fight with Henry Boucha of the Minnesota North Stars. After a nine-day trial ended with a hung jury, charges against Forbes were dropped. Boucha suffered blurred vision from the incident and never fully recovered.
- 1976 – Philadelphia Flyers players Joe Watson, Mel Bridgman, Don Saleski and Bob "Hound" Kelly were charged with assault after using their hockey sticks as weapons in a violent playoff game between the Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs in which fans had been taunting the Flyers players and spitting at them. Bridgman was acquitted, but the other three Flyers were found guilty of simple assault.
- 1976 – Calgary Cowboys forward Rick Jodzio plead guilty to a charge of assault following a cross-check to the head of Quebec Nordiques player Marc Tardif during the World Hockey Association (WHA) playoffs. The hit led to a 20-minute bench clearing brawl.
- 1977 – Dave "Tiger" Williams of the Toronto Maple Leafs hit the Pittsburgh Penguins' Dennis Owchar with his stick. He was charged with assault, but acquitted.
- 1982 – Jimmy Mann of the Winnipeg Jets left the bench and sucker-punched Pittsburgh Penguin Paul Gardner, breaking Gardner's jaw in two places. Mann was fined $500 and given a suspended sentence in Winnipeg.
- 1988 – Dino Ciccarelli hit Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson with his stick. Charged and convicted of assault, he was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000.
- 1992 – Enrico Ciccone of the IHL's Kalamazoo Wings was arrested on a battery charge after San Diego Gulls photographer Essy Ghavameddini was cut and received a deep bruise below his left eye that required stitches. Ciccone assaulted him after entering the penalty box where Ghavameddini was photographing the game from.
- 1998 – Jesse Boulerice of the Plymouth Whalers was suspended for the rest of the playoffs after violently swinging his stick at Guelph Storm forward Andrew Long. Boulerice was charged with assault as a result of the incident.
- 2000 – Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins hit Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear in the head with his stick in the waning moments of the game, after losing a fight to Brashear earlier in the game. McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon and given an 18-month conditional discharge.
- 2004 – In the Todd Bertuzzi–Steve Moore incident, Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks sucker-punched Moore of the Colorado Avalanche in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. The pair then fell to the ice with Bertuzzi's weight crushing Moore face-first into the ice, followed by several players from both teams further piling onto the mêlée. Moore sustained three fractured vertebrae, a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves and facial lacerations. Bertuzzi was charged by police and given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault causing bodily harm. His suspension resulted in a loss of $500,000 in pay and the Canucks were fined $250,000. Bertuzzi was re-instated in 2005, after a 20 game suspension and an international ban during the 2004-05 lockout season. A civil suit filed by Moore, seeking CAD$68 million in damages and loss of income, was settled on August 19, 2014. The terms of this settlement are confidential.
- 2015 - During the warm up before a qualifier to the SHL, André Deveaux from Rögle BK assaulted Västerås IK's unsuspecting Per Helmersson. Deveaux swung his stick and slashed Helmersson twice. The attack was retaliation for a hit from behind by Helmersson in the game before, which Deveaux claimed caused him a minor concussion. Both players could complete both games, and Deveaux was only disciplined after the game. Deveaux was charged for the attack, but the charges were later dropped.
- Arrest Mars Gulls Game. Los Angeles Times. 8 November 1992 Accessed at  on 13 January 2016.
- A brief history of stick violence. CBC. 6 October 2000. Accessed at  on 19 July 2004.
- History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004. Accessed at  on 19 July 2004.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History". McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
All of these incidents are in the NHL of the United States and Canada, unless noted otherwise.
|Coutu, BillyBilly Coutu||Boston Bruins||2 1/2 years||April 1927||assaulted referee Jerry Laflamme, tackled referee Billy Bell and started a Stanley Cup bench-clearing brawl, apparently on the orders of coach Art Ross (Originally banned for life, but penalty was commuted after two-and-a-half years, but Coutu never played in the NHL again.)|
|Maloney, DanDan Maloney||Detroit Red Wings||2 years||November 1975||mentioned above (Banned from playing in Toronto only)|
|Perezhogin, AlexanderAlexander Perezhogin||Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)||89 games||April 2004||slashed Garrett Stafford in the head (Perezhogin was suspended for five 2004 playoff games plus all 80 regular season games and four playoff games of the 2004–05 season, but the Russian Superleague did not honor his suspension, so he was able to play in that league's 2004-05 season.)|
|Deveaux, AndréAndré Deveaux||Rögle BK (SHL Qualifier)||10 1/2 months||March 2015||Assaulted unsuspecting Per Helmersson while warming up before the game. Subsequently agreed to terminate his contract with his hockey club.|
|Torres, RaffiRaffi Torres||San Jose Sharks||41 games||October 2015||illegal check to the head on Jakob Silfverberg and interference|
|Simon, ChrisChris Simon||New York Islanders||30 games||December 2007||stomped on Jarkko Ruutu's ankle during a timeout |
|Simon, ChrisChris Simon||New York Islanders||25 games||March 2007||slashed Ryan Hollweg in the head|
|Boulerice, JesseJesse Boulerice||Philadelphia Flyers||25 games||October 2007||cross-checked Ryan Kesler in the face|
|McSorley, MartyMarty McSorley||Boston Bruins||23 games||February 2000||mentioned above (After his assault conviction, his NHL suspension was extended to one full year from the time of the incident, through February 21, 2001, however McSorley did not sign a new contract at before the next season, and never played in the NHL again.)|
|Dwyer, GordieGordie Dwyer||Tampa Bay Lightning||23 games (two pre-season games plus 21 regular season games)||September 2000||left the penalty box to try and engage in a fight and verbally and physically abused officials (Dwyer was also fined $10,000.)|
|Alavaara, Jan-AxelJan-Axel Alavaara||MoDo Hockey (SHL)||8 months||1998||Intentionally skated into the referee during SHL semi-finals. Ended up missing 22 games due to his suspension.|
|Hunter, DaleDale Hunter||Washington Capitals||21 games||April 1993||deliberately hit and injured Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon had scored (incident occurred in Capitals' final playoff game; suspension carried over to first 21 games of next regular season)|
|Torres, RaffiRaffi Torres||Phoenix Coyotes||21 games||April 2012||illegal check of Marián Hossa in the head (originally 25 games, reduced to 21 games on appeal)|
|Lysiak, TomTom Lysiak||Chicago Black Hawks||20 games||October 1983||intentionally tripped linesman Ron Foyt with his stick|
|May, BradBrad May||Phoenix Coyotes||20 games||November 2000||slashed Steve Heinze in the nose|
|Bertuzzi, ToddTodd Bertuzzi||Vancouver Canucks||20 games (13 regular season games plus seven playoff games)||March 2004||mentioned above (Since there was a labour dispute in the NHL the ensuing year, and the NHL is an IIHF member, the suspension was good for all IIHF member leagues in the ensuing season. Reinstated by the NHL Commissioner on August 8, 2005.)|
|Downie, SteveSteve Downie||Philadelphia Flyers||20 games||September 2007||threw himself at Dean McAmmond behind the net|
|Wideman, DennisDennis Wideman||Calgary Flames||20 games||January 2016||cross-checked linesman Don Henderson from behind (reduced to 10 games on appeal in March 2016)|
|Gratton, JoshJosh Gratton||Vityaz Chekhov (KHL)||20 games||December 2010||deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Škoula|
|Kühnhackl, TomTom Kühnhackl||Niagara IceDogs (OHL)||20 games||November 2011||Charging and elbowing Ryan Murphy|
|Cormier, PatricePatrice Cormier||Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)||20 games||January 2010||Elbowing Mikael Tam|
|Belokon, SergeiSergei Belokon||Vityaz Chekhov (KHL)||18 games||December 2010||deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Škoula|
|Javeblad, TomasTomas Javeblad||Luleå HK (SHL)||5 months||1990||Attacked the referee after they had called a goal he disagreed with. Ended up missing 17 games.|
|Shore, EddieEddie Shore||Boston Bruins||16 games||December 1933||sucker punched Ace Bailey from behind|
|Cooke, MattMatt Cooke||Pittsburgh Penguins||16 games (ten regular season games plus six playoff games)||March 2011||elbowed Ryan McDonagh in the head|
|Richard, MauriceMaurice Richard||Montreal Canadiens||15 games (three regular season games plus 12 playoff games)||March 1955||knocked out linesman Cliff Thompson during a fight with Hal Laycoe; this incident led to the Richard Riot|
|Paiement, WilfWilf Paiement||Colorado Rockies||15 games||October 1978||caused deliberate facial injuries to Dennis Polonich|
|Brown, DaveDave Brown||Philadelphia Flyers||15 games||November 1987||cross-checked and injured Tomas Sandström|
|Granato, TonyTony Granato||Los Angeles Kings||15 games||February 1994||slashed Neil Wilkinson in the head|
|Thornton, ShawnShawn Thornton||Boston Bruins||15 games||December 2013||Punched Brooks Orpik in the head while he was on his back on the ice|
|Verot, DarcyDarcy Verot||Vityaz Chekhov (KHL)||14 games||December 2010||deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Škoula|
|Larin, IvanIvan Larin||Vityaz Chekhov (KHL)||14 games||December 2010||deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Škoula|
|Karlsson, SebastianSebastian Karlsson||Linköpings HC (SHL)||2 months||November 2011||Illegal check to the head on Magnus Kahnberg that caused a concussion requiring hospitalization. Karlsson ended up missing 14 games; 11 SHL regular season games and 3 national team games.|
|Maki, WayneWayne Maki||St. Louis Blues||30 days||September 1969||mentioned above|
|Green, TedTed Green||Boston Bruins||13 games||September 1969||mentioned above|
|Roy, AndréAndré Roy||Tampa Bay Lightning||13 games||April 2002||left the penalty box and physically abused a linesman while trying to start a fight with players in the New York Rangers penalty box|
|Shaw, DavidDavid Shaw||New York Rangers||12 games||October 1988||slashed Mario Lemieux in the throat|
|Hextall, RonRon Hextall||Philadelphia Flyers||12 games||May 1989||attacked Chris Chelios|
|Johnson, MattMatt Johnson||Los Angeles Kings||12 games||November 1998||sucker punched Jeff Beukeboom in the back of the head|
|Myhres, BranttBrantt Myhres||San Jose Sharks||12 games||February 1999||left the bench to attack Mattias Norström|
|Nolan, OwenOwen Nolan||San Jose Sharks||11 games||February 2001||hit Grant Marshall in the face with his stick|
|Domi, TieTie Domi||Toronto Maple Leafs||11 games (three playoff games plus eight regular season games)||May 2001||elbowed Scott Niedermayer in the face|
|Mann, JimmyJimmy Mann||Winnipeg Jets||10 games||January 1982||mentioned above|
|Peter Lindmark||Malmö IF (SHL)||10 games||1996||Swung his stick like an axe aiming at the referee's head, but missed.|
|Salei, RuslanRuslan Salei||Mighty Ducks of Anaheim||10 games||October 1999||checked Mike Modano face first into the boards from behind|
|Niedermayer, ScottScott Niedermayer||New Jersey Devils||10 games||March 2000||slashed Peter Worrell in the head|
|Brennan, KipKip Brennan||Los Angeles Kings||10 games||December 2003||returned to the ice to engage in a brawl after being ejected for roughing an opponent|
|Godard, EricEric Godard||Pittsburgh Penguins||10 games||February 2011||left the bench to fight Micheal Haley after Haley had challenged Pittsburgh goalie, Brent Johnson during the Penguins-Islanders brawl|
|Gillies, TrevorTrevor Gillies||New York Islanders||10 games||March 2011||dangerous hit on Cal Clutterbuck in first game back from a nine-game suspension as a result of the Penguins-Islanders brawl|
|Clarkson, DavidDavid Clarkson||Toronto Maple Leafs||10 games||September 2013||left the bench to engage in a fight|
|Bissonnette, PaulPaul Bissonnette||Phoenix Coyotes||10 games||September 2013||left the bench to fight a Los Angeles Kings player on an illegal ice change|
|Kaleta, PatrickPatrick Kaleta||Buffalo Sabres||10 games||October 2013||delivered illegal check to the head of Jack Johnson|
- Drewery, Laine (Writer and Director), Chong,Wayne (Producer) (2006). Hockey: A People's History, Episode 1 - A simple game, DVD Chapter — From sport to spectacle (DVD). Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," pages 27-28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- "Fighting has no place in hockey, GG says". CBC. January 26, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Violence, Not Part of Youth Hockey, pilot project working paper, Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association, September 10, 2003
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 27. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- CBC Sports 2004
- Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League. McClelland & Stewart. p. 168. ISBN 0-7710-8947-3.
- Arrest Mars Gulls Game. Los Angeles Times. 8 November 1992.
- 10 Hockey Violence Lowlights, CBC Sports Online, 9 March 2004. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/columns/top10/hockey_lowlights.html
- NHL Suspension List. Canadian Press. http://www.slam.canoe.ca/Slam040311/nhl_susp-cp.html
- History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004. http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story.asp?id=88823