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Angry Players Say Ruling Is Bad for the Game


Reaction to a Canadian court finding Marty McSorley guilty of assault with a weapon Friday was fast and furious, not unlike McSorley's vicious stick attack on Donald Brashear of the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 21.

Defenseman Kyle McLaren of the Boston Bruins called the verdict "shocking," and his sentiments were echoed through NHL dressing rooms from coast to coast.

"I mean, it's hard to say he's not guilty," defenseman Ruslan Salei of the Mighty Ducks said of McSorley, who was suspended indefinitely by the NHL after the hit, sitting out the last 23 games of last season while playing for the Bruins. "He is guilty. But I don't think it should be determined by a judge. The league punished him. His career is pretty much over. It was a severe suspension for him. It's not good for hockey. It's not good for the league. It's like a black spot for the league.

"I don't think it's the right way to sort these things out. A couple of years from now, if you're going to fight somebody, are they going to sue you? It should stay in the league with the people who know the business."

Chico Resch, a former NHL goaltender, told an all-sports Toronto radio station, The Fan 590, that "no player in the NHL will be happy with this verdict.

"The reverberations are going to be that you're going to see a lot of tentativeness among players when it comes to physical play. I think we may lose some of the intensity of the game with this ruling, as well as the new [enforcement of] rules this year."

Tie Domi of the Toronto Maple Leafs, like McSorley a so-called "enforcer," reacted angrily to the verdict handed down by a judge in Vancouver.

"I think it's a shame that he was found guilty and I still can't believe he was found guilty," Domi told CBC Newsworld. "It's absolutely disgusting to me."

Bruin defenseman Don Sweeney wondered who might be prosecuted next, speculating that a major league pitcher might be vulnerable for throwing at a batter.

"It's a little discouraging that a court of law has stepped in," he said. "It opens up a can of worms."

McSorley, 37, is the third NHL player to be convicted in court on a charge arising from an on-ice incident, the first since Dino Ciccarelli, then with the Minnesota North Stars, was convicted in 1988.

Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000 for hitting Luke Richardson of the Maple Leafs with his stick.

McSorley, whose blow left Brashear unconscious and sprawled on the ice, will not go to jail. A Canadian judge sentenced him to 18 months of probation.

"It's unfortunate when something happens in our game that makes the authorities feel they have to step in," King enforcer Stu Grimson said. "But I can understand. As a game, we are not above the laws of society. If I did something like that on the street, I'd certainly expect to be punished."

Brashear returned to action last season and remains with the Canucks. McSorley, an unrestricted free agent, must meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before he can be considered for reinstatement.

Grimson indicated that McSorley was a victim of circumstance.

"To some extent, I can empathize with Marty McSorley," Grimson said. "When you are asked to play the role that we are asked to play, you have to make decisions quickly, and frequently when players like us make those decisions, they are aggressive. That does not excuse Marty's actions. I did not agree with them then and I do not agree with them now."

Duck Coach Craig Hartsburg hopes the McSorley verdict does not lead to other cases being tried in the courts.

"Our league does a pretty good job of penalizing players for breaking the rules," he said. "I would like to see the league handle it. On the other hand, it was, obviously, a vicious slash. I just don't know what's going to happen down the road. I think that's how everyone feels. No one knows what this means [for the future] now."


Times staff writers Elliott Teaford and Jim Hodges and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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