Marty McSorley will serve one year on suspension for slashing Vancouver’s Donald Brashear across the head.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the former Boston Bruins defenseman can return to the ice on Feb. 21. The suspension is the longest for an on-ice act of violence in NHL history.
Bettman had suspended McSorley indefinitely after the attack during a game in Vancouver.
“I believe I owe it both to this player and to all other present and future NHL players to impose a suspension of a definite and ascertainable length,” Bettman said. “I have also considered Mr. McSorley’s desire to have an opportunity to play in the NHL again in conjunction with his expressed remorse for his actions.
McSorley, a 17-year NHL veteran, is a free agent and can begin practicing on Jan. 1.
Convicted of Assault
McSorley originally was suspended for the remainder of the 1999-00 season and playoffs by Bettman, who noted that the player skipped a hearing held two days after the game.
He then was convicted of assault with a weapon on Oct. 6, with Judge William Kitchen giving McSorley a conditional discharge, meaning McSorley will not have a criminal record.
The conviction, which McSorley said he will not appeal, was the first of an NHL player for an on-ice hit since 1988.
Decision Carefully Considered Bettman looked at enhanced videotapes of the slash before rendering his decision. McSorley claimed he was trying to goad Brashear into a fight late in a 5-2 loss and was not attempting to injure him.
Brashear missed 20 games with a concussion, but rejoined the Canucks last season.
Before making his decision, Bettman met with McSorley, his agents Mike Barnett and J.P. Barry, and his attorney Paul Kelly. Ian Pulver and Ian Penny of the NHL Players Association participated in the meeting by telephone, while Bettman was joined by Colin Campbell, the league’s executive vice president and director of hockey operations, who handles most disciplinary cases.
Bettman said, “I simply cannot in good conscience justify imposing a suspension of less than one calendar year given the nature of the incident in question, regardless of the effect that suspension may have on Mr. McSorley’s career.
“At the same time, however, by imposing a suspension of one year (as opposed to a set number of games), and with the suspension scheduled to end nearly one full month before this season’s trade deadline, I believe it is quite possible that Mr. McSorley might, in fact, be able to sign another NHL contract and therefore continue his NHL career during the 2000-01 season,” said Bettman
The Bruins did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.