Story Time

All this Gretzky trade talk the last week stirred up the old story machine in my head. Looking at some of the other players involved in the trade I ran across Marty McSorley’s name.

What a career this guy had! Nearly a thousand NHL games, he could hold his own or beat anyone up in the league. He could also play, posting many seasons with thirty points or more – very impressive when you look at his penalty minute totals.

I remember watching him play with the Oilers as I was growing up. Riding shotgun for the skilled players. He never turned his back or looked away when he felt his team mates were getting roughed up. I really respected him for that, even more once I started playing in the NHL. Never turning a blind eye to that and taking care of your guys night in and night out makes for a long season. McSorley was always ready.

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The first time I played against Marty I remember thinking he was even bigger than I expected. He had a presence on the ice. I always felt like he was watching over his team like a shepherd over his flock. I knew if I went too far it would be him I was fighting, no one else. Not all tough guys have that ability.

When I was traded to the Vancouver Canucks I started playing with Donald Brashear. He had just come into his own as one of the toughest guys in the NHL. In my mind he was the toughest for many years. I saw him beat on guys that others couldn’t even come close to.

He had a technique that used his immense strength to his advantage. He would get a good grip on the guy by the shoulders and then yank him down a few times to get him off balance. Then he would start pounding the guy with short punches that packed a lot of heat. I don’t remember him losing and there were not many ties!

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Brashear was a good team mate for a young guy like myself trying to establish my rep around the league. He always offered advice on guys and how they liked to fight. He was also the first guy to tap me on the pads when I had a good fight or when one got away from me. I really appreciated him as a teammate.

The 1999-2000 Vancouver Canucks team was a close team. We had quite a few good young players like Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. It was Mark Messier’s last year with the Canucks. The team was starting to turn the tide after a few years of little success.

This is where the story starts.

Brashear was beating up people left and right for the last couple seasons. I remember Marty wanting to fight Brash most games. No disrespect to Marty but Brash would really give it to him in the fights but Marty would always come back and want another shot. He just couldn’t accept losing to Brash.

I think the frustration of not being able to beat Brash finally got to him on February 21st, 2000.

McSorley was playing for the Bruins against Vancouver in what would be his last NHL game.

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Earlier in the game Brash had beat up McSorley. I remember Marty wanted to fight him again later in the game but Brash said no. Marty kept chasing him around but Brash didn’t bother and I can’t blame him.

We were beating the Bruins 5 -2 near the end of the third period when Marty just exploded with the slash.

When he hit Brash I think everyone on our team, both on the bench and the ice were just in shock. No one reacted right away except out trainer and Messier. They both jumped the boards to get to Brash’s aid.

Our guys on the ice didn’t really see it because it was behind the play. The only guy who saw it was our goalie, a tough goalie, Garth Snow, now the GM of the Islanders. He went after McSorley. I loved Snowy for doing that.

It got a little crazy at that point. On the bench we are starting to lose it. For a few minutes I thought this was going to end up in a bench clearing brawl. Our guys were pissed and wanted to get even.

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It settled down on the ice. Marty was getting peppered by our fans with bottles and drinks as he skated off. It was crazy how much stuff was coming down on him and the Bruin bench, even our fans wanted blood.

We started yelling at the Bruins bench saying we were coming for them and that this last three seconds would be the longest in NHL history. Pat Burns walked over to our end of his bench. He made it clear they did not support what Marty had done. He did not want this to explode into fight club. He just wanted the game to end.

With those words our team started to calm down. The game ended and we went back to the dressing room. We all knew the media was coming in to talk to us about this. Brian Burke never came in the room to address the team after a game as the GM but this game he did. He asked us how we wanted to handle this. We said we were pissed and wanted to say what we wanted. He said no problem, go for it.

Brash ended up being ok after a few weeks. He came back to play for us and we were happy to have him back. Marty was suspended the rest of the season and on. I had no problem with that but I did have a problem with the police getting involved.

Marty went to trial in Vancouver over this issue. That was wrong. I firmly believe what happens on the ice should be dealt with on the ice or by the NHL, no one else. I felt badly for Marty for having to go through that media circus.

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Marty would never play another NHL game. I think it was more his play then this slash that brought his career to an end. This event was one second of a lapse in judgment and the wires crossing in Marty’s head.

I will never forget when Brash came to visit us two days after the game and slash. We all expected him to look like the elephant man. It was far from that. He had a welt and swelling on the side of his face. A normal human would have looked like the elephant man but not our tough guy.

It was a pretty crazy night.

Recently by Jason Strudwick

  • ubermiguel

    Loved him as an Oiler but McSorley had a history of lapses of judgement. Remember the spearing incident in the 88 playoffs v. Calgary?

    Interesting to hear Pat Burns involvement in calming things down. The guy needs to be in the HHOF.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    always loved Marty, and this dumb move aside, was one of the best fighters ever. he was just at the end of his fighting career when this happened and wasn’t able to beat Brash or a lot of the younger toughies anymore and it likely bugged him a lot and in this case he snapped. but in his prime, you could say that Marty was the best fighter, at least one of the best, of his time. his toe to toe with Probert was legendary (look it up on YouTube). i was very pissed at the Oilers when we traded him to LA along with Gretz. there went the best player ever along with the leagues best fighter….thanx a lot Peter!!

  • Muji

    “Marty went to trial in Vancouver over this issue. That was wrong. I firmly believe what happens on the ice should be dealt with on the ice or by the NHL, no one else. I felt badly for Marty for having to go through that media circus.”

    I disagree. Maybe not with this particular instance, but there is a limit.
    Things could “happen on the ice” that are so serious that the law should get involved..

  • Stay Frosty

    I remember Brashear not wanting to fight Laraque very badly & for good reason! Brashear new he had the upper hand on most of the heavyweights (particularly old heavyweights) & picked & chose a of his fights carefully!

  • toprightcorner

    Vancouver and Montreal are the only two cities where they would even attempt to press legal charges if one of their players got hurt. If it were the other way around do you honestly thing Brashear would have gone to trial? Not a chance. The only time the law should be involved if there was a direct attempt to threaten a life (Happy Gilmore stabbing someone with his skate).

    Any other player in any other city and that would be a 10 – 15 game suspension.

    Brashear’s serious injury was not caused by the stick but by his helmet falling off before his head hit the ice. I put much of the responsibility on the player, most players have a 2 inch gap between their chinstrap and their chin, why even have it strapped up. They should be strapped like motorcycle helmets. That would greatly reduce concussions where the head hits the ice. Equipment can only protect a player if they use it properly.

    What Marty tried to do was slash him in the arm/shoulder and missed and hit his head, something that happens many times a year. Unfortunately there was a serious injury related to that slash, not caused by that slash.

    Marty continued to go after Brashear the entire game not only due to pride of an ageing enforcer over one in his prime but because Brashear was still running around taking liberties with Bruins players and Marty still wanted to stop it, even if he got beat up 3 times that game. He was a guy that would stick up for his team-mates no matter what and that’s what he was trying to do.

    • Stay Frosty

      Yup, not that this is a popular opinion, but the slash didn’t do the damage. It even looked like Brashear faked being knocked unconscious by the slash and then gave himself the concussion by falling like a sack of potatoes. Trash me if you wish, but that was my view of it as it happened. I was never much of a McSorley fan either, Semenko and Brown were my favorite fighters.

    • Stay Frosty

      If Marty was going for the shoulder & hit Brashear in the head, it explains why he didn’t score many goals.

      It was a terrible play by Marty, and IMO the suspension given was well justified.

      • toprightcorner

        The reason for the lifetime suspension was not due to the infraction, it was because of the trial and the media attentian it got. With Many Americains already thinking hockey was too violent it was a reactive suspention to try to save face and do damage control to protect the image.

        Same reason why A-Rod got 211 games, becasue Selig has to save face for allowing steroids after the lockout to gain fans. Daving face and public image.

        There have been at least 20 worse incidences in the NHL since Marty’s slash and nothing even close to same penalty or reaction.

        • toprightcorner

          Marty didn’t receive a “lifetime” suspension.

          And give your head if you think the reaction to the “Bertuzzi” incident was less. It was much greater.

          • toprightcorner

            I never said anything about Bertuzzi so not sure why the hate on that??

            McSorely was originally suspended for the remainder of the season and playoffs and missed 23 games. Once McSorley was found guilty and put on probation for 18 months, he was instantly suspended for a full season. That was sheer reaction to the trial verdict and negative press. The league just doesn’t add more games to a suspension when it is completed for the heck of it, it was to save face and show the American fans that the NHL is not a violent league and the league will do anything to stop violence from being accepted.

            When you give a a 37 year old a one year suspension, only Chelios or Selenne could come back and still play. That is about as close to a “lifetime” suspension as you could get, just enough that he was not likely to get on with another team at 38 and negative media attention that would distract the team everywhere it went. You could also say the 18 month probation, which I assume would prevent him from crossing border could have killed his career alone.

            The question is, if Brashear hit McSorely and got the same suspension, would he have gone to court, charged, put on probation and then followed up with an extended suspension after the fact? I highly doubt it.

            Since you trashed me about Bertuzzi when I didnt even comment about it I may as well put in my 2 cents in. I agree Bertuzzi was a much worse infraction though he only missed 20 games in total, not the full season as McSorley. McSorely was charge by the vancouver police, Bertuzzi was not, even though he premeditated the revenge and planned to hurt Moore. A majority of the media was on the attention of Moore and his injury as well as the lawsuit. Not near as much attention was brought to Bertuzzi even though they were entering a lockout which would have been the perfectime to lambaste him for months. Instead the story was on Morre and his health, which it should have been.

            Bertuzzi put a young player out of hockey with a premeditated attempt to injure Moore. Missed only 20 games and was even added to the Olympic team after the lockout. So basically Bertuzzi committed a far more serious offence, missed only 20 games, local police (Same ones who brought charges against McSorley) no league follow up suspension and hardly any attention against Bertuzzi afterwards.

            Now you tell me that McSorely never got shafted for his incident compared to Bertuzzi and his incident. Its not even close!

    • Jason Strudwick

      I couldn’t disagree with you more. When you get hit by a stick to the face like that you drop. Brash wasn’t trying to draw a penalty to going down. That idea is crazy. How do I know this?

      I got hit by a stick in Sweden in the face. I dropped like a sack of rocks. I never dropped or try to draw a penalty in my life. The natural reaction is to go down.

      I would like to see how you would react from a stick hit like that.

      • toprightcorner

        I appreciate your comments Struds, but you replied to the wrong guy. I never said he tried to draw a penalty, I said his head hitting the ice was what caused the seriousness of the injury.

        I have 4 false teeth from a hockey stick, I know it hurts and you drop without even thinking.

        My point was the improper use of equipment is the main reason why Brashear was seriously concussed, he could have stepped on the puck, fell backwards and had the same result. If the league enforced tight chin straps or adjusted the type of strap to one similar to a motorcycle helmet, concussions would be reduced instantly as many are caused from the bare head hitting the ice becasue the helmet moved or fell off.

  • Stay Frosty

    Not the first time a Nuck pissd off someone. Back in the day Messier has a run in with a Nuck and pretty much did the same thing as McSorley. Messier looked like like lumberjack that night. I believe it was a game during the 1980 season. Its been awhile but I still remember it. Could not do that nowadays.

  • oilers1168

    Excellent story. But I need to vent. I did not see any difference between what Mcsorley did and Bertuzzi did to Steve Moore. I personally feel the Vancouver Police, the Canuck hockey team and their fans should feel shamed. The Vancouver Police should have laid charges against bertuzzi just like they did to Mcsorley. I believe both is a violent act and if the police charge one it should charge the other. Remember law enforcement is suppose to be fair and objective. This was not.

  • Rob...

    “I firmly believe what happens on the ice should be dealt with on the ice or by the NHL, no one else.”

    I disagree with you, Jason, and imagine that even you have a line in the sand. Could you please comment whether or not you can think of, or have heard of, something that can or has happened on the ice where you think it has transitioned from a hockey altercation into a crime? If you can’t think of anything, I’ll take you at your word. I just refuse to believe that any non-combat minor or professional league rules should supersede the laws of a country when the actions during the game are not outlined as regular game play.

    To put it another way, when your son becomes a young man playing a sport, what would have to happen during the game before you yourself would be contacting the police?

    • Jason Strudwick

      There is nothing that I saw while playing that I thought was a crime. Not once did I think the law should have got involved. Once they start where does it stop.

      • Rob...

        Thank you for answering.

        As to where it stops, I have a thought on it. How about when the whistle goes ending the play, combined with whether or not both players were willing participants in the altercation? If the ‘whistle has clearly gone’ and ‘one player was not a willing participant’ AND ‘injury occurs to the unwilling participant’ then league/association will not resist criminal charges if the police and a judge deem it worthy to pursue them.

        This still allows for common sense to prevail if it was a freak accident, if both players start trading blows before the injury occurs, or if there’s a question as to whether not a player thought there was a stoppage in play.

        The underlying message is that if a clear assault has occurred, when it was not possibly a hockey play, criminal charges may be laid.

        • Jason Strudwick

          ‘whistle has clearly gone’ and ‘one player was not a willing participant’ AND ‘injury occurs to the unwilling participant’ then league/association will not resist criminal charges if the police and a judge deem it worthy to pursue them.

          I truly doubt Claude Lemieux was a willing participant when McCarty denied his turtle. However nothing I saw there would have led me to present a case to law enforcement. Even if Lemieux had been injured.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “I had no problem with that but I did have a problem with the police getting involved.

    Marty went to trial in Vancouver over this issue. That was wrong. I firmly believe what happens on the ice should be dealt with on the ice or by the NHL, no one else. I felt badly for Marty for having to go through that media circus.”

    This an absurd position to take.

    All absolutist positions are.

    The last thing anyone needs is an aggressive juridical culture criminalizing sporting. The last thing, after the need for some exceptional zone of anarchy, that is.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        Imagine if he had?

        Most of our cliches wouldn’t exist! How would sports get by without cliches?

        “There is nothing that I saw while playing that I thought was a crime. Not once did I think the law should have got involved.”

        There’s a good reason why we don’t allow the “man on the street” to determine whether a breach of the criminal code has occurred, or if a punishment is just.

        “Once they start where does it stop.”

        It was always there. It is a complete illusion to presume the law flits away for 60 mins in a special oval.

        The problem here isn’t so much the law, it’s moralizing commentators demanding this and that.

        • Tikkanese

          “Holier than thou”, much?

          In this case you are the “moralizing commentator” not someone who played in the NHL. Strudwick’s say holds more clout than yours, sorry to burst your bubble.

          I’m with Strudwick on this one. “Once they start where does it stop”. Every single stick enfraction; High Sticking, Slashing, Spearing etc no matter how forceful, are all technically attempts to injure with a deadly weapon. Should those have charges pressed? Same goes for every body check, hit to the head etc.

          Pretty soon we’ll all be watching chess only. But the chess would have to be online, not in person, as they may get injured from sitting in their chairs or accidently bumping fingers as they lay down their chess pieces.

          Leave it on the ice.

  • oilers1168

    I totally agree. What happens on the ice stays on the ice. But what happens in Vancouver ice does not stay on the ice if you are from the other team. So really that is an unfair advantage. Should other cities do the same?

    • Rob...

      Why would you want to trash the article? Jason’s position is common, and is likely strong amongst the former and current NHLPA members. Having it documented here is a good thing; it’s even better because it’s a blog and Jason likely welcomes respectful debate on the issue.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Unfortunate that this happened to Brashear – or anyone – and clearly there is no justifying what McSorley did.

    BUT ……….

    One wonders if there may be some cosmic hockey Karma going on. The showboating ala “wiping of the hands” that Brashear became famous for, always struck me as disrespectful and against “the code”. Especially against a veteran like McSorley, as Brashear did with disdain once he got in the penalty box at the 1:05 point of the attached video.

    Again, no justification for hitting a guy in the melon with a hockey stick but the old saying, “mess with the bull, you get the horn” comes to mind. Luckily there were no long term effects to Brashear’s health. No one, including McSorley would have wanted that.

  • toprightcorner

    strudzy this is off topic….but a light bulb just lit up in my head

    how about Dubnyk, N.Schultz, Hemsky, Lander, Marincin and 2nd round pick (12 million)


    Schneider and Volchenkov (8 million)

    new jersey has 7 mill cap room and the devil knows they need help upfront with Clarkson, kovalchuk and parise peacing out!

    and im sure Zidlicky, Elias and most of all Jagr would take Hemsky in with open arms and de3velop some chemistry for Sochi…

    that being said Yakupov, Belov and Grebshkov would welcome Volchenkov coming back this way…

    I wish I could bring this to Mac Tavish or Lamourellos attention so now I hope you do!!!

    PLEASE bring it up on the team1260 or next time u see mac!!

  • Rob...

    So what exactly is it that makes you believe NHL hockey players should be “exempt” from any part of the Canada Criminal Code?

    That was a blatant dangerous assault. He should have done jail time.

  • 2004Z06

    Not one to argue with Jason and I am certainly not condoning the stick to the face. I was never a Brashear fan. I always found him to be classless and disrespectful. He may have been a great teammate, but he gave his share of cheap shots as well. It was a mistake by McSorley, but not what I would deem a “crime”. Liberties are taken all the time in professional and amateur sports.

    By some interpretation any spear/hack/slash/punch could be viewed under the code as physical assault or assault with a weapon. Hell even a bodycheck could be interpreted as assault by the letter of the law.

    I think more to Jason’s point is that once you open the door to allowing prosecution for offenses within sport, where does it end? You won’t have hockey, or football to watch if every time a player steps onto the ice/field they risk criminal charges or a lawsuit.

    • Rob...

      I don’t buy it. It’s the same argument used to fight against things like gay rights. Society is crippled when doing the right thing is stopped because of the ‘slippery slope’ argument.

      These severe cases of attack don’t happen very often, but would probably disappear altogether if legal standards were maintained. Whether you’re involved in a one sided attack on an opposing player or a cabbie you should not be protected from the law. If there is no game being played physical attacks should be off limits. I’ve been on both sides of these attacks after the whistle and can’t think of any way to justify the attacks were charges laid.

      • 2004Z06

        I don’t think it is similar to anything involving Gay rights at all! Please do not portray these as being equal. Being gay is not a choice, playing hockey is.

        This is a full contact sport wherein grown men/women enter into the “arena” willingly and know full well the risks associated with the profession/game. They wear protective gear and are in a somewhat controlled environment.

        Contact sports have referees, suspensions and fines to limit the “intent to injure” infractions and based on how infrequently these types of incidents have occurred in the past several years, I think they are doing just fine in policing there own game.

        I am not condoning flagrant violence in sport, but as with anything involving litigation, once you open the door, any contact be it intentional or unintentional will become fair game for judgement.

        • Rob...

          You misunderstood my statement. I wasn’t comparing the two. I just using it as an example that the ‘slippery slope’ is often a cop-out argument used by those who mask not wanting any changes to be made at all.

          I’ll accept the remainder of your argument though… why not get every player to sign a waiver stating that they will never pursue charges regardless what happens to them on the ice. I bet you’d find few takers, despite the current unwritten rule that means the same thing.

          • 2004Z06

            I apologize if I misinterpreted your comment. As for the waiver issue. I completely agree that is is coming sooner rather than later. At the amateur level first and then beyond.

            I work in risk management and mitigation and I can assure you that with everyone suing for everything these days as well as the inordinate amount of insurance costs, it is only a matter of time. Look at what team Canada has had to deal with to even get the players together for a tryout.

            Liability management will be the end of professional sports as we know it.

          • 2004Z06

            It also poses the question of whether the instigator rule and the removal of the “enforcer” has led to an increase or decrease in the number of liberties being taken in the game today, but thats is another argument entirely.

  • Rob...

    Bertuzzi/Moore – I agree with the law getting involved. It flagrant on a smaller player not normally involved in these types of confrontations, and perhaps career ending. Though likely a short career.

    Brashear/McSorley – I don’t think the law should have been involved and I, like many others feel that Brashear hurt himself taking a dive.
    Though I do have to agree with Jason that people can get knocked out with seemingly harmless contact. It just has to be in the right place at the right time.

    I’ve seen in a beer league a player behind the play get slashed in the teeth. Vicious. Reffing wasn’t good enough to protect him. No league. Certainly the law should be involved in these types of incidents.

    I think the law rarely needs to get involved but there are times when it should.

  • 2004Z06

    Nice article!

    My buddies and I were at the old Great Canadian Casino on Broadway about a week after that incident and who happens to walk in? Good old Brashear! I got him to sign my bacarat card. He still seemed pretty out of it but he may have just been confused about why this scrawny college kid was bugging him at the casino when normally it is just a bunch of old Chinese people who don’t know who you are.

  • Hair bag

    Strudwick I think your opinion of Brashear is a little biased, perhaps because you played together and he was pumping your tires. IMO he was one of the most overrated tough guys in the league who never really beat on anyone except guys below his weight class. I watched a lot of his fights and you are right that he was incredibly strong. But anytime he fought legit tough guys he would get in close reach up underneath their arms, grab the top/back part of the guys shoulder pads and hang on for dear life. I never ever saw him go toe to toe with any true heavyweight.

  • Hair bag

    If this had happened in a beer league, the police would be involved without question.

    What makes you pro atheletes so special? Entitled brats, that’s what you are. Assault is assault. Fighting is a grey area in the game, using your stick as a weapon never was and never will be. It’s straight up assault.

  • Hair bag

    This is why hockey will never be fully accepted in the States. Here you have guys doing to other guys the crown would consider as serious assaults or even attempted murder. No other game allows hired ” goons” to intimidate opposition by way of threats and assaults.It’s like hiring Tyson to play on a basketball team. Absurd. f the hockey fanboys like fighting so much, why not make it a total part of the game and start employing trained prize fighters to duke it out? Why have folks like McSorely to run around beating on other players who train for hockey , not fighting. And dont say well it’s just goon on goon violence. We’ve all seen hockey games, the threats and violence aren’t just aimed at other goons. Either play the game as it is, or get into prize fighting. Don’t say its about skill and then have goons to muck the game up. One of the reason why the ” broad street goons” won those games back then, all about gooning. Is that part of hockey? If it is, then it’s not a game of skill. And if that is part of the game, then start hiring trained fighters to only fight. The game today is all mucked up, the rules change come playoffs, you can hit, you cant hit, it’s consistently inconsistent.