NHL 100: Tales from the police blotter
70 arrested in Richard riot, Todd Bertuzzi ends Steve Moore's NHL career
In its 100 years, the NHL has been parked at the intersection of violence, emotion and money. Inevitably, some of that would spill over the boards into the criminal realm.
In the latest edition of NHL 100, a weekly series from The Canadian Press, we examine some of the more unforgettable, sad, and sobering tales from the police blotter.
On March 17, 1955, tempers boiled over at the Montreal Forum just days after fan favourite Maurice Richard had been suspended by NHL president Clarence Campbell for the balance of the season for clubbing Boston's Hal Laycoe with his stick and punching a linesman. Fans pelted Campbell with fruit and rotten vegetables. A smoke bomb went off. The game was called, fans spilled into the streets and rioted, smashing windows and beating up cab drivers. About 37 were injured and 70 arrested.
In the annals of hockey's white-collar crime, nothing matches the spectacular rise and fall of super agent Alan Eagleson. The man known as the Eagle soared to prominence in the late 1960s to found and run the players' association, represent players and stage international hockey tournaments. He was arguably the most powerful person in the game, until complaints of conflicts of interest and questionable bookkeeping involving the players led to guilty pleas to embezzlement, fraud, racketeering and an 18-month jail sentence in 1998.
Moore's final game
Violence spilling into the courtroom is entwined like a double helix in the NHL, but was seared into the public consciousness in on March 8, 2004. Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi, determined to avenge an earlier dirty hit by Colorado's Steve Moore, stalked Moore, sucker-punched him from behind and drove his head into the ice, damaging his spine. The footage ran on 24-hour sports channels, slow motion, regular speed, over and over. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and got one year's probation. Moore never played in the NHL again.
On Dec. 12, 1970, Brian (Spinner) Spencer, born and raised in the bush of the B.C. interior, was making his, and his father's dreams come true, playing for the fabled Toronto Maple Leafs on "Hockey Night in Canada." But in B.C., the TV affiliate showed not Spinner but the Vancouver Canucks and the sad sack California Golden Seals.
Spencer's enraged dad, Roy, drove to the TV station in Prince George and forced technicians to show the Toronto game at the point of a shotgun. Police were called and outside the station, Roy was shot dead. When the game was over Brian was told his dad was dead. Spinner's post-hockey life was punctuated by violence and drugs until he was murdered in Florida in 1988.
The most bizarre crime story to come out of the pages of the NHL was about the Ontario-born forward Mike Danton and the complicated relationship he had for years with his junior coach and agent David Frost. In 2004, Danton, then with the St. Louis Blues, pleaded guilty to trying to arrange a murder, believed by authorities to be Frost.
Danton would later say at a parole hearing that the target was his father. Danton was ultimately jailed for five years and afterward continued to play on the fringes of the game, in Europe and North America.