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Violence in ice hockey

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Title: Violence in ice hockey  
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Subject: Ice hockey, Bench-clearing brawl, Eddie Shore, Enforcer (ice hockey), Violence in sports
Collection: Ice Hockey, Violence in Ice Hockey, Violence in Sports
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Violence in ice hockey

Linesmen attempt to break up a fight around the Tampa Bay goal during the first ice hockey playoff game between the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning

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.[1]

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 important 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 which allows a high level of scrutiny of any event which occurs.


  • History 1
  • Reports investigating violence 2
  • On-ice incidents resulting in charges 3
    • Sources 3.1
  • Longest suspensions 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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.[2] 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 coach Art Ross. The NHL's first president, Frank Calder, expelled Coutu from the NHL for life; the ban was lifted after 2½ 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.

Players who are banned in the American Hockey League for violence are not permitted in the ECHL, and vice versa, because of their agreements with the Professional Hockey Players' Association.

In January 2012, David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, said that violence such as headshots, high-sticking, and fighting should not be part of the sport.[3]

Reports investigating violence

There have been 2 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.[4]

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.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • 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 1969–1970 NHL season.[7] 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 playoffs. The hit led to a 20-minute bench clearing brawl.[8]
  • 1977 - Dave "Tiger" Williams of the Toronto Maple Leafs hit Pittsburgh Penguin 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 Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson with his stick. Charged and convicted of assault, he was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000.
  • 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; Moore has not played since and made several unsuccessful attempts at civil litigation.


  • A brief history of stick violence. CBC. 6 October 2000. Accessed at [1] on 19 July 2004.
  • History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004. Accessed at [2] on 19 July 2004.
  • McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History". McClelland & Stewart, 2006.

Longest suspensions

All of these incidents are in the NHL of the United States and Canada unless noted otherwise.
Name Team Length Date Offense
Coutu, BillyBilly Coutu Boston Bruins life 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 (Ban was commuted after 2½ 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 (five 2003-04 playoff games plus all 80 regular season games and four playoff games of the 2004–05 AHL season) April 2003 slashed Garrett Stafford in the head (Suspension did not carry over to NHL.)
Simon, ChrisChris Simon New York Islanders 30 games December 2007 stomped on Jarkko Ruutu's ankle during a timeout [3]
Torres, RaffiRaffi Torres Phoenix Coyotes 25 games (reduced to 21 games on appeal) April 2012 illegal check of Marian Hossa in the head (Because the IIHF honors NHL suspensions, Torres was banned from playing in any IIHF member league during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.)
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 (McSorley never played in the NHL again.)
Dwyer, GordieGordie Dwyer Tampa Bay Lightning 23 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)
Hunter, DaleDale Hunter Washington Capitals 21 games (incident occurred in Capitals' final playoff game; suspension carried over to first 21 games of next regular season) April 1993 deliberately hit and injured Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon had scored
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 March 2004 mentioned above (Because the IIHF honors NHL suspensions, Bertuzzi was also banned from playing in any IIHF member league during the 2004–05 NHL lockout. Bertuzzi was 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
Gratton, JoshJosh Gratton Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 20 games December 2010 deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Skoula
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 Skoula
Shore, EddieEddie Shore Boston Bruins 16 games December 1933 sucker punched Ace Bailey from behind
Cooke, MattMatt Cooke Pittsburgh Penguins 16 games (10 regular season games plus the first round of the playoffs) March 2011 elbowed Ryan McDonagh in the head
Richard, MauriceMaurice Richard Montreal Canadiens 15 games (3 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 Sandstrom
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 Skoula
Larin, IvanIvan Larin Vityaz Chekhov (KHL) 14 games December 2010 deliberately hit and injured Roman Červenka and Martin Skoula
Maki, WayneWayne Maki St. Louis Blues 30 days September 1969 mentioned above
Green, TedTed Green Boston Bruins 13 games September 1969 mentioned above
Roy, AndreAndre 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 Norstrom
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 (3 playoff games plus 8 regular season games) March 2001 elbowed Scott Niedermayer in the face
Mann, JimmyJimmy Mann Winnipeg Jets 10 games January 1982 mentioned above
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 a brawl
Gillies, TrevorTrevor Gillies New York Islanders 10 games March 2011 dangerous hit on Cal Clutterbuck in first game back from a 9-game suspension
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 (ice hockey)

See also


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," pages 27-28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
  3. ^ "Fighting has no place in hockey, GG says". CBC. January 26, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ Violence, Not Part of Youth Hockey, pilot project working paper, Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association, September 10, 2003
  5. ^ McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 27. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
  6. ^ McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
  7. ^ CBC Sports 2004
  8. ^ Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League. McClelland & Stewart. p. 168.  

External links

  • 10 Hockey Violence Lowlights, CBC Sports Online, 9 March 2004.
  • NHL Suspension List. Canadian Press.
  • History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004.
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