Like most contact sports, hockey is sometimes violent.
In 1904 four players were killed during hockey games due to the frequent fighting and violent stickwork.
At times theses acts of violence can be unintentional, just part of playing the game. However, there are times when players lash out at other players, and sometimes refs, and that is when the league steps in and suspensions are handed out.
On the ice, referees impose penalties for certain prohibited activities. Off the ice, it is the NHL league office that fines, suspends or expels players. With even the justice system taking charge of certain cases, hockey has become much more regulated in an effort to control the violence in the game.
With social media and new technologies ready to scrutinize any questionable hit or violent act on the ice, the NHL has become much stricter in the length of its suspensions.
Here are the top 10 longest NHL suspensions of all time.
11 T-10. Todd Bertuzzi – 20 Games – March 2004
In a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver’s Todd Bertuzzi assaulted Colorado’s Steve Moore. After several attempts to instigate a fight with Moore, Bertuzzi grabbed him by the jersey and punched him in the back of the head. Bertuzzi brought Moore to the ice, and several other players piled on top to try and break them up. When the smoke had cleared, Moore lay on the ice motionless for ten minutes before being taken away on a stretcher. Moore left the game with three fractured neck vertebrae, some cuts to his face and a concussion, as well as amnesia. The incident was sparked by a questionable hit by Moore on Canucks captain Markus Naslund almost a month prior. Afterwards Bertuzzi was quoted calling Moore a “piece of shit” and forward Brad May issued a bounty on Moore. The NHL suspended Bertuzzi 20 games and he was forced to forfeit $501,926.39 of his salary and an additional $350,000 in lost endorsements.
10 T-10. Tom Lysiak – 20 Games – October 1983
During a 6-1 win over the Hartford Whalers, Chicago Blackhawks center Tom Lysiak tripped Linesman Ron Foyt, a stunt that got him suspended for 20 games. Foyt had removed Lysiak from a face-off multiple times that night, and when the face-off finally occurred, Lysiak’s stick found itself under Foyt’s leg and the Linesman hit the ice hard. Due to the new Rule 67 which had come in to play only 14 months prior to the incident, any player who “deliberately strikes or deliberately applies physical force against an official” would receive an automatic 20 game suspension. Lysiak tried to pass the act off as an accident but video evidence showed that his actions were intentional and the suspension stood.
9 Dale Hunter – 21 Games – April 1993
In the sixth game of the Patrick Division semifinals, Dale Hunter blindsided New York Islander Pierre Turgeon after he scored the series-clinching goal. Turgeon was sidelined for seven games with a separated shoulder and Hunter sat out the first 21 games of the 1993 season. At the time the 21-game suspension was the longest ever administered for an on-ice incident. Hunter was also forced to give up a quarter of his $600,000 salary ($150,000).
8 T-7. Gordie Dwyer – 23 Games – September 2000
During a pre-season game against the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Gordie Dwyer received three automatic suspensions that totalled 23 games (21 once the regular-season began). After an altercation with Capitals players Joe Murphy and Joe Reekie, Dwyer applied physical force to linesman David Brisebois and was sent to the penalty box. Shortly after Dwyer opened the door of the penalty box and headed back to Reekie, instigating another fight during which he pulled referee Mark Faucette to the ice. Dwyer received a 10 game automatic suspension for leaving the bench, and 10 games for category II and III physical abuse of an official, totaling 23 games and a $10,000 fine.
7 T-7. Marty McSorley – 23 Games – February 2000
With seconds left in a game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley clubbed Vancouver Canucks enforcer Donald Brashear across the face, causing his helmet to fall off and his head to hit the ice. McSorley was reportedly trying to gain Brashear’s attention shortly after the two had gotten into an altercation. When the latter refused to pay attention, McSorley assaulted him with his stick giving him a Grade III concussion. After being charged with assault, the NHL suspended him for 23 games, and McSorley missed the rest of the 1999-2000 season including the playoffs. He was sentenced to 18 months probation by a judge of the British Columbia Provincial Court and never played another game in the NHL.
6 T-4. Jesse Boulerice – 25 Games – October 2007
During a pre-season game against the Vancouver Canucks and the Philadelphia Flyers, Jesse Boulerice cross checked Ryan Kesler in the head. The hit was so hard the Boulerice’s stick broke. NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell called the act “senseless” and said that had Kesler’s injury been worse there would’ve been a “whole heap of problems”. Boulerice had a reputation as a bad apple before he entered the NHL. In 1998 he was charged with assault after a violent stick-swinging incident in the OHL playoffs and was suspended his final junior season. Boulerice also forfeit $63,502.75 of his salary and did not return to the team until their December 13th game against the Montreal Canadiens.
5 T-4. Chris Simon – 25 Games – March 2007
It all began when New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg hit New York Islander Chris Simon from behind, a play for which he was not penalized. Afterwards, Simon rushed towards Hollweg and swung his stick violently like a baseball bat just as Hollweg turned towards him. The incident left Howlleg with two stitches on his chin and Simon with a 25 game suspension spanning the rest of the regular season, the Islanders five playoff matches and the first five games of the 2007-2008 season.
4 T-4. Raffi Torres – 25 Games – April 2012
After launching himself at Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres was handed a 25-game suspension. The incident occurred during game 3 of the teams’ Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff game. At 11:42 in the first period, Torres took a run at Hossa, hitting him in the head and causing him injury. Torres was fined $21,341.46 for every regular season game he couldn’t play. The suspension carried on into the following pre and regular season, however Torres’ suspension was later decreased from 25 games to 21.
3 Chris Simon – 30 Games – December 2007
No stranger to this list, Chris Simon has been suspended multiple times in his career. The longest of which was handed out after Simon stomped on the leg of Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu during a 3-2 loss to the Penguins. Simon pulled out Ruutu’s leg with his own, sending him to his knees and then proceeded to stomp on the back of Ruutuu’s leg with his skate. Because of his status as a repeat offender, Simon was forced to forfeit $292,683 of his salary. Simon’s contract at the time was a one-year, $475,000 deal that included $325 in potential bonuses.
2 Dan Maloney – 2-Year Suspension – November 1975
During a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings left winger Dan Maloney attacked Brian Glennie from behind. Maloney’s vicious attack included the use of his stick and his fists and he bounced Glennie’s head off the ice until he went limp. As part of Ontario Attorney-General Roy McMurty’s crackdown on hockey violence, Maloney was charged with assault causing bodily harm, but after giving a no-contest plea Malony received community service work and his suspension was restricted to Toronto, where he was not allowed to play for two whole seasons.
1 Billy Coutu – Life Suspension – April 1927
After the end of Game 4 of the 1927 Stanley Cup finals, Billy Coutu of the Boston Bruins started a bench-clearing brawl that landed him a life suspension from the NHL. The brawl which was apparently done at the request of Coach Art Ross included the assault of referees Jerry Laflamme and Billy Bell. Coutu was suspended for life but the Ban was lifted after 2 ½ years, however Coutu was only allowed to play in minor professional leagues and he never played another game in the NHL.