McSorley found guilty of assault for NHL stick attack

Friday, October 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) _ Marty McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon on Friday but won't go to jail for hitting an opponent over the head with a stick during an NHL game.

McSorley, a Boston Bruins defenseman last season, contended that the blow that sent Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear sprawling to the ice was not meant for his head.

Judge William Kitchen disagreed, saying ``Brashear was struck as intended.''

McSorley was granted a conditional discharge, meaning no charges will go on his record as long as he completes 18 months of probation. He was also ordered not to play against Brashear during that time.

If McSorley were to play against Brashear in the United States, the Canadian court would consider that a probation violation.

``I've played the game for a long time,'' McSorley told the judge. ``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 by the NHL for the rest of the season after the hit and is an unrestricted free agent. He must meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before he resumes playing.

The NHL did not have any immediate reaction.

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.

McSorley, who has played for six teams during a 17-year career, hit Brashear with three seconds left during a Feb. 21 game between the Bruins and Canucks.

As Brashear skated with his back to McSorley, the Bruins defenseman came up behind him and slashed at his upper body, striking him in the side of the head.

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

Brashear testified that he still has no memory of what happened.

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.

Bill Smart, McSorley's lawyer, argued that NHL players give ``explicit consent'' to the risk of on-ice contact and McSorley's hit was not an assault.

McSorley, one of the league's notorious enforcers, testified he tried to hit Brashear in the shoulder to provoke him into fighting.

The league maintained it took adequate action when it handed McSorley the longest suspension _ 23 games _ in league history.

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 last season, re-signed with the Canucks on Sept. 19. Vancouver opened its season Thursday at Philadelphia.

The weeklong trial featured 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 on-ice protector.