British league suspends Canadian hockey brawlers

The British ice hockey league handed out suspensions totalling 28 games and fines worth 8,400 pounds ($18,750) Wednesday in the wake of a mass brawl between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers last week.

Sheffield's Scott Allison, a native of St. Boniface, Man., received the harshest penalty: a 14-game suspension and 850-pound ($1,900 Cdn) fine. Allison, a former Prince Albert Raider whose resume includes minor-league stops in Wheeling and Pensacola (ECHL, Cape Breton and P.E.I. (AHL) and Manitoba and Grand Rapids (IHL), was judged to have left both the bench and the penalty box to brawl. He also cross-checked an opponent in the head.

Former Ottawa Senators tough guy Dennis Vial was banned for six games and fined 750 pounds ($1,675 Cdn). Among his offences, the defenceman from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., squirted water at fans in the stands at last Friday's game in Nottingham.

Nottingham enforcer Barry Nieckar, a Saskatchewan native who spent more than eight hours in the penalty box while with the Saint John Flames in 1994-95, was suspended five games and fined 700 pounds ($1,560 Cdn) after collecting his fifth game misconduct of the season.

The British league season lasts 48 games.

The Nottingham and Sheffield clubs were each fined 2,500 pounds ($5,575 Cdn) for bringing the sport into disrepute.

Nottingham assistant coach Perter Woods, a former University of Manitoba coach, was fined 250 pounds ($557 Cdn) for failing to control his bench. Sheffield coach Mike Blaisdell, a nine-year NHL veteran with Detroit, the Rangers, Pittsburgh and Toronto who calls Moose Jaw, Sask., home, was fined 500 pounds ($1,115 Cdn) for the same offence. His fine was bigger because it was his second gross misconduct of the season.

Nottingham forward Greg Hadden, a Vancouver native, was banned for three games and fined 250 pounds ($557 Cdn). Fellow Panther Eric Lavigne of Victoriaville, Que., was fined 100 pounds ($223 Cdn).

Britain's Press Association described the fighting between players from the league champion Steelers and Panthers as "one of the worst scenes of violence seen at a British ice hockey rink."

Eight players and two coaches -- all Canadian -- were ejected after the mass brawl which forced game officials to send the teams to their locker-rooms for a 45-minute cooling-off period.

Officials handed out 404 penalty minutes in one period, a league record. There were also records for the most penalty minutes by one team in a game, with Nottingham getting 230. The most penalty minutes in one period, with Sheffield tallying 211. And the most total penalty minutes at 453.

Nottingham won the game 6-4.