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“I Went To A Fight, And A Hockey Game Broke Out” Legalities Of The Presence Of Violence In The National Hockey League

1897 words - 8 pages

"I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out"Legalities of the Presence of Violence in the National Hockey LeagueCriminal Justice 103Charn KingraMarch 24th, 2010The National Hockey League (NHL) is arguably one of the most well-known, well-watched and popular sports leagues in the entire world. From the NHL down to the junior and amateur ranks, there is a strong sense among the hockey brotherhood that the honourable way to right a wrong on the ice is to physically attack one's foe. But the consequences can be lethal, as the Canadian court system has documented. This paper will examine the specific case of Todd Bertuzzi (2004) with respect to the civil liability and criminal responsibility involved, as well as the difficulties that arise for the Canadian justice system from disciplining a long-sanctioned form of sport violence for which very little precedent exists (Verdun-Jones, 2007). While criminal liability cannot be excluded, the position take in this paper is that the courts should defer to the disciplinary bodies of the sport leagues because the courts are not always in the best position to override the disciplinary authority of the NHL's head commissioners and govern the NHL in accordance with the law when at all possible.In order to properly analyze this case from a legal level, we first need to examine the events preceding the attack in question. On February 16th, 2004, during a Vancouver Canucks versus Colorado Avalanche game, Avalanche center Steve Moore injured Canucks team captain Markus Näslund by checking him in the head area after play had stopped while Näslund was reaching for the puck ahead of himself with his head down. Näslund, the league's leading scorer at the time, suffered a minor concussion and a bone chip in his elbow as a result of the hit, knocking him out of the line-up for three games. No penalty was called.On March 8th, 2004, The Vancouver Canucks played the Colorado Avalanche again. Late in the third period, With Colorado leading 8-2, Canuck winger Todd Bertuzzi began following Steve Moore down the ice and tried to start a fight. When Moore ignored him, Bertuzzi grabbed hold of Moore's jersey, and punched him in the side of the head from behind. Bertuzzi, as well as several other players from both teams then began to fight and ultimately landed atop Moore as he fell to the ice. After lying on the ice for several minutes, Moore was removed on a stretcher. He suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of his brachial plexus nerves, and facial cuts. The NHL suspended Bertuzzi, and did not reinstate him for seventeen months, until August 8th, 2005, when he was allowed to reapply for admission into the NHL (Verdun-Jones, 2007).Civil LiabilityWhen determining civil liability, we must look at two things - assumption of risk and the presence of unreasonable and reckless behaviour. When two opposing teams have willingly agreed to compete...

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