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Very major penalty

McSorley found guilty of assault, avoids jail time

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Latest: Saturday October 07, 2000 05:25 PM

  Marty McSorley The charges won't appear on Marty McSorley's record if he completes his probation. AP

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Marty McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon but won't be sent to jail for his two-fisted stick attack on an opponent.

Now he needs the NHL's permission to play again.

A Canadian court found McSorley guilty Friday for the February 21 blow that sent Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear sprawling to the ice.

McSorley, a 17-year NHL veteran who was with the Boston Bruins at the time, won't have any charges go on his record as long as he completes 18 months of probation. He was ordered not to play against Brashear during that time, in Canada or the United States.

A lawyer for McSorley said the player might appeal.

Players and the NHL say the case shouldn't have gone to court.

"I've played the game for a long time," McSorley said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the game. ... I'm extremely glad to see Donald back on the ice and I do plan to address this with Donald in person."

McSorley was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after the hit -- missing the final 23 games of this past season -- and is an unrestricted free agent. He must meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before he can be considered for reinstatement.

"The court today said that its focus was solely on the charge against Mr. McSorley. This was not a trial of the game or the NHL," Bettman said Friday.

"Clearly, this incident was not representative of NHL hockey or NHL players. While the court's decision today brings closure to this aspect of the incident, it does not alter our position that we will continue to punish severely acts of inappropriate conduct in our game."

Reaction and Analysis
Select a link to begin clip's Sonja Steptoe and Vancouver criminal defense attorney Michael Bolton
   Sports Illustrated NHL editor Paul Fichtenbaum
SI's Michael Farber 
Clearly, the sight of McSorley in a prison jumpsuit would have brought home the point more strongly, but I think the guilty verdict underscores the fact that if the league doesn't police itself better -- and the league is trying to -- the court reserves the right to step in. The verdict is probably more important than the punishment. I think the implications of the verdict are more important than the implications of the punishment.

Although if you're taking it at face value, you can see the mixed message there.

Click here for a Q&A with Farber
Lawyer Paul Kelly 
McSorley does believe that the trial was fairly conducted, but he is quite concerned about the result. He is happy that he is not going to be convicted, and he has no conviction as we stand here today, but at this point, it is his intention to appeal.

Click here for a Q&A with Kelly

Brashear, whose Canucks played Florida on Friday, issued a statement.

"The court in Vancouver has made its decision and it's time to move on now," Brashear said. "I'd like to thank everyone for their support, especially my family and my teammates. It's time to concentrate on the season."

The trial was 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.

The 37-year-old McSorley, one of the league's most notorious enforcers, testified he tried to hit Brashear in the shoulder to provoke him into fighting and didn't mean to hit his head.

But Judge William Kitchen disagreed, saying "Brashear was struck as intended."

McSorley "slashed for the head. A child, swinging as at a tee-ball, would not miss. A housekeeper swinging a carpet-beater would not miss. An NHL player would never, ever miss," Kitchen said.

The hit came with three seconds left in the game between the Bruins and Canucks.

Brashear's head hit the ice. He briefly lost consciousness, and had a concussion and memory lapses. He returned to play after several weeks and has fully recovered.

Brashear testified he has no memory of what happened.

Bill Smart, McSorley's lawyer, argued that NHL players give "explicit consent" to the risk of on-ice contact.

Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren called the verdict 'shocking.'

"It happens in games. It happens all the time. There's other stuff that's probably worse than that," McLaren said.

"The NHL did a good job of policing itself. Now it's going off-ice. It's sort of crossing some bounds here."

Brashear, a left wing who had 11 goals and 136 penalty minutes in 60 games this past season, re-signed with the Canucks on September 19. Vancouver opened its season Thursday at Philadelphia.

The weeklong trial included evidence from McSorley and Brashear, on-ice officials, Canucks coach Marc Crawford, New York Rangers executive Glen Sather and others.

Even Wayne Gretzky made a cameo appearance. He did not testify, but sat in the courtroom in support of McSorley, his friend and once his protector on the ice.

Related information
SI's Michael Farber: A dangerous precedent
NHL's Longest Suspensions
Brashear testifies remembering very little from incident
McSorley: Didn't mean to hurt Brashear
Ex-teammate Heinze backs McSorley's testimony
Final arguments heard in McSorley case
Multimedia legal analyst Michael Bolton thinks the Marty McSorley case will greatly affect the sport of hockey. (95 K)
Prosecuter Mike Hicks hopes the ruling will reduce hockey violence. (120 K)
Defense attorney Paul Keoli says McSorley is likely to appeal the verdict. (226 K)
Keoli says McSorley is ready to play hockey. (92 K)
Donald Brashear isn't sure about the verdict changing the way hockey is played. (206 K)
Hicks is satisfied with the verdict. (237 K)
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