Hockey dad Thomas Junta has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of another father.

He will be sentenced on Jan. 25.

A Massachusetts jury deliberated for more than a day before delivering its verdict. Junta, who beat another father to death at their sons' hockey practice was described during the trial as a "gentle giant" who was simply defending himself.

The jury rejected the more serious charge of manslaughter.

In closing arguments, Thomas Junta's lawyer said his client never intended to kill Michael Costin, who was much smaller.

"It was simply a fight," lawyer Thomas Orlandi Jr. said in his closing argument at the manslaughter trial. He described Junta, who weighs more than 120 kilograms, as a "gentle giant."

But the prosecution called the description ridiculous, saying Junta "took (Costin's) head and slammed it into the mat" while children watched in horror.

Junta said he tried to avoid a fight with Costin, and left the hockey rink at one point during their dispute in July 2000. The two men scuffled only after the accused returned to pick up his son, he told the jury.

After the fight, Junta said he left the rink unaware that Costin was severely hurt. "I thought when he laid back down that he was just resting," he said Wednesday, crying several times during his testimony.

Some witnesses said Junta hit Costin only a few times, but others testified that he knocked him in the head at least 10 times. A main artery in his neck ruptured, and he died the next day.

"There were more than three punches here, ladies and gentlemen," prosecutor Sheila Calkins told the court Thursday. "And the medical evidence shows you that."

The jury of nine women and three men returned their verdict of involuntary manslaughter late Friday afternoon.

The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. However people convicted of involuntary manslaughter generally get a penalty, ranging from eight to 12 years for a first offence.