Work in Sports
Meant no harm
Ex-Bruin says he did not want to injure Brashear
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Marty McSorley, with friend Wayne Gretzky looking on, testified Wednesday he wasn't trying to hurt Donald Brashear when he bashed the Vancouver Canucks defenseman in the head with his stick.
"I was trying to strike Donald Brashear high in the body, up around his shoulder area," McSorley said.
"Did you intend to injure him?" asked his lawyer Bill Smart.
"No," McSorley replied.
After seeing the videotape of the hit, McSorley said "my stick initially hit him [Brashear] in the back side of the shoulder."
"I made a motion to get him to stop," said McSorley, repeating his intent was to confront Brashear and get him to fight. "I was trying to strike Donald on the number above the sleeve. It happened so fast."
McSorley said he was initially unaware that he had injured Brashear.
"I had no idea I'd hit him in the head," he said. "I went up to him thinking, 'Get up.' But things weren't right."
He also said he didn't think deliberately hitting someone in the head was acceptable in NHL hockey.
The blow is not in dispute. The judge will try to determine whether such an attack in a pro hockey game constitutes assault.
McSorley testified his job is, among other things, to "match the other team's toughness and probably overcome their toughness," and that it "absolutely" means being prepared to fight.
McSorley strongly suggested fighting is not only accepted but an important part of NHL hockey. The job of a tough guy is to inspire teammates and to ensure the team's skilled players are not intimidated.
"Fighting can change the whole complexion of a game," McSorley said.
The trial is the first for an on-ice attack by an NHL player since Dino Ciccarelli, then with the Minnesota North Stars, was sentenced in 1988. He received one day in jail and a $1,000 fine for hitting Toronto's Luke Richardson with his stick.
Brashear, who banged the back of his head on the ice after McSorley hit him, sustained a concussion, lost consciousness for a few moments while on the ice and suffered memory lapses. He returned to play after several weeks and has fully recovered.
McSorley was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the season and is now an unrestricted free agent. He must meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before he resumes playing.
The Canucks and the NHL were opposed to the trial, but Brashear said that McSorley should not play in the NHL again.
In the afternoon session, Gretzky sat in the front row of the packed courtroom. The former NHL star said he had flown to Vancouver from Los Angeles to show support for McSorley. Gretzky and McSorley played together in Edmonton and Los Angeles.