Bench-clearing lacrosse brawl prompts review

The National Lacrosse League is looking into a bench-clearing brawl earlier this month in a pre-season game between the Toronto Rock and Buffalo Bandits. A league spokesman says the league is reviewing the video and expects an announcement on disciplinary measure next week.

The National Lacrosse League is looking into a bench-clearing brawl earlier this month in a pre-season scrimmage between the Toronto Rock and Buffalo Bandits.   

"The league is currently in the process of reviewing the video of the brawl, and expects to issue discipline at some point next week," the league said Thursday in a statement to The Canadian Press.   

The Dec. 15 game at the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena in Hagersville, Ont., was called in the third quarter after the brawl with Buffalo leading 5-4.   

The brawl saw players coming off the bench and pairing off across the playing surface, with both goalies going at it.   

Toronto GM Terry Sanderson asked that fans who see the YouTube video of the brouhaha put it in perspective.   

"They should realize it's no uglier than the hockey ones that I've seen, the baseball ones that I've seen," he said. "People sometimes try to, I believe, paint the lacrosse end of things as being very violent.   

"Although it's something that nobody really condones, it's just there's not a lot of love lost between the two teams. It's pre-season, guys are just trying to let coaches know that they will do anything to make the club.   

"It just exploded. And when these things do happen, it's just mass chaos. Things just broke out and the guys just thought they had to settle things themselves, I guess."   

Video of the incident shows it started after two players went at it near the Rock goal when a Bandit forward took offence at a cross-check from a Toronto defender as play resumed from a stoppage.   

Other players on the floor watched as the two fighters went to the ground and two officials stepped in to stop the encounter. But the Bandit kept swinging from the top position, prompting other Rock players -- quickly followed by their Bandit markers -- to approach.   

Sanderson was critical of the Bandit player who kept punching in the original bout.   

"Most guys stop when you have a guy down and he's vulnerable. I don't think you keep hammering away. I thought that was pretty weak."   

Soon three more fights were underway, with the officials escorting the original combatant out of the game.   

The Rock players on the floor were not fighters, according to Sanderson. "Generally mild-mannered guys," he said.   

Things went from bad to worse when one of the remaining fights rolled into the goal crease and veteran Rock goalie Bob Watson, seeing his teammate was getting the worst of the scrap, stepped in to grab hold of the Buffalo player. Up trundled the bulky Buffalo goalie from the other end and the two goalies went at it.   

Players streamed off the bench and paired off.   

Things seemed to be calming down when another melee ensued outside the penalty boxes, setting off more skirmishes.   

The three officials eventually restored order and sent the players to their benches.   

The game was called with 5:02 left in the third quarter.   

Sanderson expects fines and suspensions, but says such brawls are rare in his sport.   

"I've seen it way more in baseball than I've seen it in lacrosse," he said.   

Like hockey, individual fights do occur in lacrosse but the league has moved to crack down on brawls.   

The league noted any suspension arising from a scrimmage or pre-season games will be served during the regular season.   

The Rock open their 2011 regular season at home on Jan. 8 at the Air Canada Centre against the Edmonton Rush.