NHL brass promises to 're-evaluate' McSorley's career

The National Hockey League has banned Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins for the rest of the season and the playoffs for striking Donald Brashear of the Vancouver Canucks with his stick.

It works out to a 24-game suspension, not counting the post-season, making it the most severe penalty for on-ice violence in the history of the NHL. The previous record was a 21-game suspension against Dale Hunter of the Washington Capitals.

Reports from NHL sources now say McSorley may face a permanent suspension. McSorley, who says he wants to play hockey next year, must meet with Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL, before next season "to re-evaluate his situation."

"Mr. McSorley's act is entirely unacceptable," NHL vice-president Colin Campbell said in a statement Wednesday. "It would be grossly unfair to suggest that his conduct is at all representative of the game, of the 700 players who play in the NHL or the countless others who play hockey at all levels."

McSorley, 36, is also the subject of a criminal police investigation after the incident in Monday night's game against the Canucks.

With three seconds left in the game, McSorley swung his stick, hitting Canucks' forward Brashear on the side of the head, just below the helmet, on his right temple.

Brashear crashed to the ice, losing his helmet and hitting his head. He lay on the ice for several minutes, twitching in a pool of blood. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher 10 minutes later, still bleeding from the nose.

Brashear was taken to hospital suffering from a Grade 3 concussion, the most severe concussion. He is expected to be out of the Vancouver lineup for about two weeks.

McSorley's current suspension includes the playoffs this year, but it is unlikely the Bruins will make the playoffs. As they prepared to meet the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night, the Bruins were six points out of playoff contention.

On Tuesday, Vancouver police said they were opening a criminal investigation. Spokeswoman Const. Anne Drennan called the incident "a fairly vicious attack" and said an "investigation was necessary."

At her regular morning news briefing, Drennan said investigators have been assigned to the case. She told reporters "our priority is in getting evidence."

No decision will be made on whether charges will be laid against McSorley until that investigation is complete. "The findings will be sent to Crown counsel. It will then be up to Crown counsel to decide," if charges should be laid.

Drennan said since the incident has received so much publicity and the identity if those involved is not in question "an immediate arrest is not necessary."

McSorley, 36, said after the game he was sorry. "I embarrassed my hockey team, I apologize to Donald Brashear and the fans who had to watch that ... I apologize to my own team and my organization. I wanted to go over and fight him like I'd done with so many guys at so many different times. Why that happened, I don't know. No excuse. I'm still kind of in shock at what I did."

Brashear, a 28-year-old winger, had had a fight with McSorley earlier in the game, which Brashear had won.

Boston Bruins captain Ray Bourque echoed the sentiments of many within the ranks of professional hockey. "There's no room for that," said the all-star defenceman, "you can't justify that. That's the first time I've witnessed something like that. It's not fun."