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Facing 18 months

McSorley to be charged with assault in B.C.

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Wednesday March 08, 2000 02:20 AM

  Marty McSorley Criminal justice officials in British Columbia have not set a court date for McSorley. AP

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Marty McSorley now faces an assault charge for his stick attack on Vancouver's Donald Brashear, authorities announced Tuesday.

The Boston Bruins defenseman -- one of the league's tough guys - was charged with one count of assault with a weapon for his Feb. 21 attack. He plans to plead innocent, his lawyer said.

McSorley, who will not have to appear at the hearing, would face a maximum of 18 months in jail if convicted.

"I'm disappointed," McSorley said. "I'm disappointed it's going to court because I don't know if anybody really knows right now how much I've already lost."

SI's Michael Farber
It was an assault so premeditated that it more resembled a lion tracking an antelope on a Discovery Channel nature show than it did a sporting event. But while the charges are not the first to stem from hockey games -- Dino Ciccarelli once spent a night in jail after a stick-swinging incident -- it compounds a seldom-invoked but dangerous precedent.

McSorley might have stepped over the line that separates competition from criminality, but do we really want to leave these matters in the hands of the legal system?

Click here for Farber's complete analysis. 
The 36-year-old defenseman was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the season in the league's harshest penalty ever for an on-ice infraction. He must meet with commissioner Gary Bettman before the league will consider letting him play again.

"I've been in contact with a very good lawyer in Vancouver and we were trying to not have it go to court," McSorley said. His suspension already will cost him an estimated $72,000 in salary.

His Vancouver lawyer, Bill Smart, said he hopes for a trial date in late summer or early fall. There is a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 4, which McSorley would not have to attend.

Geoff Gaul, a spokesman for the British Columbia criminal justice branch, said the decision to charge McSorley was made after a prosecutor's review and a police investigation.

The NHL said it does not agree with the move, but said it will fully cooperate with Canadian authorities.

"We believe the league dealt with the matter quickly, decisively and appropriately -- and did not feel that any further action was either warranted or necessary," said Bill Daly, the NHL's chief legal officer.

Bruins president and general manager Harry Sinden also expressed disappointment that the courts were getting involved.

"The National Hockey League has handed down a severe discipline in this case and we feel that was sufficient," he said, adding that the team would also cooperate fully.

Well, what do you think?

Is Marty McSorley a criminal or just a hockey goon? Should the Canadian legal system be involved in the matter? Or is this something for the NHL to deal with alone?

Click here to send us your thoughts. 
After McSorley hit him in the right temple, Brashear fell backward, striking his head against the ice as his helmet came off. His body twitched and blood came from his nose. He was diagnosed with the most serious kind of concussion and his status is to be reviewed in about a week.

McSorley and Brashear, another NHL tough guy, had fought earlier in the game, and McSorley said he was trying to goad Brashear into another fight at the end of the game, a 5-2 victory by the Canucks.

"I had absolutely no intention of hurting Donald Brashear with my hockey stick," McSorley said. "I wanted a confrontation with Donald Brasher, no different than I've done on so many other nights. ... It just went badly."

McSorley has lasted 17 years in the league because of his ability to fight and protect his more skilled teammates. He had six previous suspensions in his career.

He is best known for serving as Wayne Gretzky's protector with the Edmonton Oilers and then with Los Angeles as the two were traded together in one of hockey's biggest deals.

McSorley said he has received calls of support from players in the league and Hall of Famers - "numerous tough guys" -- who say they understand what happened and offered to speak on his behalf.

He told them to stay out of it because he didn't want attention drawn away from the game.

"That's one thing I really feel bad about is the fact the game doesn't need a black eye -- and I don't want to be the cause of it," he said.

It took police just over a week to investigate the slash, which was witnessed by thousands of fans at the game and shown repeatedly on TV highlight clips.

"There's a lot more involved in this than just that second and a half or two seconds that the video shows," McSorley said. "I think he embarrassed me. You definitely want a rematch. You have to stand up for yourself. Our bench was challenged. Our team was challenged."

Police have gotten involved in several previous on-ice conflicts in the NHL.

In 1970, Wayne Make of the St. Louis Blues and Ted Green of Boston were the first NHL players taken to court after a stick-swinging duel at a September 1969 preseason game. Green, who fractured his skull, and Maki, who was not injured, were acquitted of assault charges.

In 1975, Dave Forbes of the Boston Bruins went to trial, accused of using excessive force against Henry Boucha of the Minnesota North Stars. The trial ended in a hung jury and the prosecution did not seek a retrial.

In the most recent, Minnesota's Dino Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000 in 1988 for striking Toronto's Luke Richardson several times in the head with his stick.

Related information
NHL suspends McSorley for slash to head of Brashear
NHL's image further hurt by McSorley incident
Exiled McSorley gets scant support from fellow players
Brashear still sour towards McSorley
Reactions: Hockey’s danger's Jim Kelley: History catches up with McSorley
React: Should this go to court?
SI's Michael Farber: A dangerous precedent
Spokesman Geoff Gaul explains why officials came to this conclusion. (193 K)
Gaul says one factor being considered is the fact that the incident occurred in an NHL game. (197 K)
Gaul says complaints and public outrage have not influenced the investigation. (197 K)
Marty McSorley admits he can only hope for the best. (93 K)
McSorley maintains he was merely trying to instigate a fight with Donald Brashear. (146 K)
McSorley explains his role as a tough guy -- and the expectations involved. (238 K)
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