Boston Bruins defenceman Marty McSorley, charged Tuesday with assault with a weapon, is the first NHL player since 1988 to face a criminal charge resulting from his actions in a hockey game.

The rugged, longtime veteran with the trademark flowing, golden locks was charged as a result of a stick attack on Canucks forward Donald Brashear on Feb. 21 in Vancouver.

"I'm disappointed it's going to court because I don't really know if anybody knows right now how much I've already lost - in a sense of just not having the right to play and I mean you have your reputation tarnished," he said on the ESPN show Up Close.

"Don't get me wrong . . . I feel incredibly bad that Donald Brashear got hurt because of my stick," McSorley continued.

"I wanted him to turn around and have a confrontation with me and fight, like we did earlier in the game, like we've done in games before and like I've done so many times before."

The charge against McSorley, which carries a maximum 18-month sentence, also prompted a hint of regret from the NHL and former teammate Ray Bourque.

In Calgary, Bourque wished McSorley well as he prepared for a game against the Flames.

"As a player we all hoped that what came down from the NHL on how they reacted to the incident was going to be it," said Bourque, who was traded Monday to the Colorado Avalanche.

"We were all hoping it would stay in the hockey environment. I know Marty feels bad about it. I just hope it works out for Marty because he really is a great guy and he's a great competitor."

When the NHL suspended McSorley, it said it had co-operated with police but would prefer to penalize its own players.

On Tuesday, Bill Daly, the league's chief legal officer, reiterated that stance.

"As we stated at the time the suspension was imposed, we believe the league dealt with the matter quickly, decisively and appropriately - and did not feel that any further action was either warranted or necessary.

"We, therefore, would have preferred that the Crown not take this action.

"Having said that, the Vancouver authorities have made their decision and we remain committed to offering our full co-operation in any way we can."

Brashear was struck in the head by a stick in a Feb. 21 game in Vancouver. He dropped to the ice, suffering a Grade 3 concussion.

He was told to remain inactive for as long as three weeks and then have his condition re-evaluated.

McSorley was to appear in provincial court April 4, charged under section 267(a) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

McSorley's lawyer Bill Smart said McSorley intends to plead not guilty.

"We're hoping that a trial date can be set for late summer or early fall, but that will depend on court availability and witness availability."

The maximum 18-month sentence in a summary conviction such as the charge against McSorley is rarely imposed.

In Victoria, a spokesman for the criminal justice branch said McSorley won't be required to attend B.C. Provincial Court in April.

"Mr. McSorley can make his preliminary appearances in court via his legal counsel," said Geoff Gaul. "Eventually, when the matter does come for a resolution, Mr. McSorley is expected to attend."

McSorley was suspended by the NHL for the rest of the season (23 games) and the playoffs after the slashing. It was the harshest penalty ever imposed by the league.

The Bruins hockey club had no comment on the decision.

McSorley's agent, Mike Barnett, was also not immediately available to comment. The NHL Players' Association would not comment, saying the matter is before the courts.

Brashear, who is the Canucks tough guy and one of the league's best fighters, was having his best season ever on the final year of his current contract.

While McSorley is the first NHL player ever charged in British Columbia, he is not the first overall. There have been a number of players charged as well as numerous suspensions.

Prior to McSorley, the most recent criminal instance was in 1988 when Minnesota's Dino Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000 for striking Toronto defenceman Luke Richardson several times in the head with his stick.

A look at some stick incidents in hockey over the years:

1955

After being hit on the head by Hay Laycoe, Maurice (Rocket) Richard slashed the Boston defenceman, punched a linesman, and slashed Laycoe twice more. Richard was suspended for the end of the season and playoffs, sparking the Richard riot.

1968

A stick fight that resembled a fencing match ended with Philadelphia defenceman Larry Zeidel's forehead split open by Boston forward Eddie Shack's stick.

1969

Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues and Ted Green of Boston were the first NHL players taken to court after a stick-swinging duel in a pre-season game. Green, who suffered a fractured skull, and Maki, who was not injured, were acquitted of assault charges. The NHL suspended Maki for 30 days; Green got a 13-game ban.

1975

Dave Forbes of Boston was charged with aggravated assault after a fight with Minnesota's Henry Boucha. A nine-day trial ended in a hung jury and charges were dropped when the prosecutor decided not to ask for a second trial.

Detroit's Dan Maloney was acquitted in Toronto of charges of assaulting Maple Leafs defenceman Brian Glennie.

1977

Dave (Tiger) Williams was acquitted of assault for hitting Pittsburgh's Dennis Owchar with his stick in a game at Toronto.

1978

After being speared in the face, Colorado's Wilf Paiement whacked Detroit agitator Dennis Polonich on the head, drawing a 15-game suspension.

1987

After a whistle, Dave Brown took exception to New York Ranger Tomas Sandstrom standing by the Philadelphia crease and cross-checked him in the face, breaking his jaw and drawing a 15-game suspension.

1988

Minnesota's Dino Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000 for striking Toronto defenceman Luke Richardson several times in the head with his stick.

1994

Tony Granato of Los Angeles clubbed Chicago defenceman Neil Wilkinson over the head, drawing a 15-game suspension.

1998

Jason MacIntyre, who played for Phoenix in the West Coast Hockey League, was fined $500 and ordered to complete an anger management course, after he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. MacIntyre slashed Tacoma's Thom Cullen in the face with his stick during an intermission. He was banished for life from the WCHL.

Two weeks before the 1998 Olympics, Chicago's Gary Suter cross-checked Anaheim star Paul Kariya on the jaw at the goalcrease. Kariya missed the Olympics and the rest of the season with post-concussion syndrome. Suter was suspended for four games.

1999

Dean Trboyevich of the Anchorage Aces was suspended for the season, fined an undisclosed sum and put on probation for the 1999-00 season by the West Coast Hockey League for a cross-check of Jacques Mailhot of the Fresno Falcons in February 1999. Fresno, Calif., authorities decided to drop felony assault charges against Trboyevich.

Junior player Jesse Boulerice of the Plymouth Whalers pleaded no contest last year to a charge of aggravated assault during an OHL game that left Andrew Long of the Guelph Storm with a broken nose, nasal cavity, 20 stitches and a blood spot on his brain.

A Chicago teenager was charged with aggravated battery for a hit from behind during a high-school game that left Neal Goss, 15, paralysed from the chest down.