McSorley’s criminal indictment goes too far

Marty McSorley has paid his dues.
We’ve all heard what happened, but just to refresh the old memory, here goes:
In a matchup last month in Vancouver, the Canucks and Boston Bruins locked horns. It was a chippy game throughout, most noticeably between McSorley and Vancouver’s Donald Brashear. The antagonism ranged from fierce hipchecks to a fight early in the game.
Vancouver had the game in tow, 5-2 late in the third period, when McSorley skated up behind Brashear and, using his stick, clubbed him square in the temple. The blow sent Brashear in a violent fall backwards. He hit his head hard on the ice and was knocked out cold with a severe concussion. That made for chaos between the two benches.
Not surprisingly, McSorley was suspended indefinitely after the game and later NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended him for the rest of the season.
OK, that’s understandable. Who wouldn’t agree with the commish on McSorley’s suspension? In his “defense,” McSorley said that he was just trying to start another fight with Brashear.
Fighting isn’t an unusual sight at hockey games.
“You go to a fight and see a hockey game,” the old saying goes.
Even Wayne Gretzky — whom McSorley protected for years with Edmonton and LA and who received NHL’s Lady Byng trophy four times as the league’s most sportsmanlike player — has gotten into a fight.
It was his only NHL fight, ironically on a night he was honored as sportsman of the year. But that’s another story.
Why go and charge McSorley with assault with a weapon, a crime that carries a possible 18 months in jail, as Vancouver has done? This “weapon” is a part of the acceptable NHL equipment. The sport puts the weapon in his hands.
Late in the 1996 baseball season, then-Baltimore Oriole Roberto Alomar spit on homeplate umpire John Hirschbeck over a called strike. Alomar was handed a five-game regular season suspension — which he appealed — dragging the issue into the 1997 season and allowing Alomar to play in the playoffs.
He spit on an umpire. He was allowed to play.
Should his saliva be a weapon now? Granted, Hirschbeck didn’t sustain a concussion, but he was spit on for a called strike. Why not have the Baltimore police step up and arrest Alomar for disorderly conduct? Because it happened on the playing field. And that’s where it should stay.
Brashear will live through his concussion. Hirschbeck will live through his embarrassment. But there have been those who aren’t so lucky.
Over one 14-month period in professional boxing during the mid ’90s, four competitors were killed in the ring as a result of brain-bashing blows. Four fighters who walked out of their homes, kissed their loved ones goodbye and were wished good luck, never returned.
They were killed doing what they loved best, boxing.
None of the four fighters’ opponents were charged with murder in the fights. Why? Because of the accepted brutality of the sport. It is a part of the game.
Marty McSorley was egging on Donald Brashear for another fight. It’s a part of hockey.
True, his method far exceeded anything we have seen before. But McSorley is a fighter. He has been for 17 years now in the NHL. He has been suspended six times in his career and deserved this suspension, hands down. He deserved to lose over $72,000 in salary. He deserves to be looked at as a poor example of how to play the sport.
But he should not have to deal with the Vancouver police or face jail time. He has apologized and is already living the punishment.
Him being charged has put an even larger black stain on the great sport of hockey. And this one will not come clean anytime soon, with spit or Wisk.

Brian Stensaas covers swimming and diving and welcomes comments at [email protected]