AHL comes down hard on Alexander Perezhogin

Hamilton Bulldogs forward and Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Perezhogin has been suspended for the rest of the AHL playoffs and all of next season.

American Hockey League president David Andrews announced the disciplinary action on Friday.

Perezhogin was suspended indefinitely last week after a stick-swinging attack to the head of Cleveland Barons defenceman Garrett Stafford after the two tangled in front of the Cleveland net during an AHL playoff game.

After both players fell to the ice, Stafford swung his stick over the head of Perezhogin and missed. Perezhogin retaliated by swinging his stick and striking Stafford in the head.

Stafford, a San Jose Sharks prospect, was on his knees at the time of the attack and fell to the ice in convulsions, with blood gushing from a huge cut in his face.

Stafford received a six-game suspension for his part in the incident.

"In my opinion, the action of Mr. Stafford was clearly a contributing factor to the incident. The action of Mr. Perezhogin was indefensible in terms of both its nature and its real and potential consequences," Andrew said, noting that Perezhogin's suspension was the longest in the AHL's recorded history.

"Mr. Perezhogin has expressed serious remorse over this incident. The severity of the injury to Garret Stafford, while serious, is not as extensive as previously reported."

Perezhogin, a 25th overall pick by Montreal in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, was assessed a major penalty for intent to injure on the play.

Stafford received a six-game suspension for his part in the incident.

Perezhogin, who is from Kazakhstan, read from a statement in Russian at a news conference in Hamilton before concluded in English: "Thank you. I'm very sorry."

In his statement, translated into English, Perezhogin said: "I deeply regret what happened in relation to this incident. I hope that Garrett Stafford's injuries are not serious and Garrett enjoys a full and speedy recovery.

"I have made efforts to speak with Garrett to convey my feeling. I have fully co-operated with the American Hockey League and the municipal authorities in Hamilton in relation to their investigation and I have answered all of their questions. I must say I did not intend to strike Garrett in the face and my intent was never to hurt or injure Garrett in any way."

Stafford was taken to Hamilton General Hospital where he was treated and released late Friday night before heading back to Cleveland on Saturday. He suffered a third-degree concussion and a facial laceration and is out of the lineup indefinitely.

There was no indication whether any charges will be laid, but Hamilton police Staff Sgt. Mike Campbell confirmed he had sent an investigator to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum to investigate. Campbell said that this does not mean that a complaint has been filed, or that charges will be laid.

The Bulldogs are still in the AHL playoffs, down 2-0 to the Rochester Americans in the North Division final.

"I've been doing hockey my whole life and I've never seen anything like it," said an infuriated Barons coach Roy Sommer, who compared it to an NHL incident in 2000 when Marty McSorley hit Donald Brashear in the head with his stick.

"That makes the McSorley-Brashear thing look like girl scouts."

"I don't think this guy should ever play again in North America," said Sommer. "That's a travesty."

"I saw it on tape ... and it's even worse on tape."

In March, Todd Bertuzzi of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks was suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs after an on-ice attack on the Colorado Avalanche's Steve Moore.

with files from CP Online