HAMILTON, Ontario -- A minor league hockey player appeared
in court Thursday, a day after he was charged with assault causing bodily harm over a stick-swinging incident that left his opponent bleeding and
convulsing on the ice.
Hamilton Bulldogs forward Alexander Perezhogin injured Cleveland Barons defenseman Garrett Stafford on April 30 in an American Hockey League playoff game.
Assault causing bodily harm carries a maximum prison term of 10
years, but such a sentence is considered reserved for the worst
offender with a long criminal record.
Stafford swung his stick at Perezhogin, catching him with a glancing blow on the back of the helmet. Perezhogin retaliated with a two-handed, baseball-like swing to Stafford's face as the Cleveland player was on his knees.
Stafford went into convulsions with blood gushing from his face
and was rushed to hospital. He suffered a concussion and needed 20
stitches to repair the gash on his face.
"In hockey, you are consenting to a certain level of assault
every time you step on the ice, but at a certain point you cross
the line," Hamilton police Det. Dave Brady said at a news
conference. "It was more than a mere trifling injury."
Perezhogin, who was drafted in 2001 by the
Montreal Canadiens, was suspended for the rest of the playoffs
and all of next season.
Stafford was suspended for six games for his role. He is
not believed to have suffered any permanent injury.
Perezhogin was in his native Kazakhstan for the summer before
arriving in Hamilton this week.
"He knew before he left to see his family that this would be a
matter he would have to attend to and accepted the process," said
agent Don Meehan, who appeared in court with Perezhogin.
Wayne Thomas, general manager of the Barons, said Stafford has
recovered fully and is preparing for next season.
Perezhogin's court appearance came on the same day Vancouver
Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi pleaded not guilty in Vancouver to
the same charge in another case of on-ice violence. Bertuzzi was
charged in June for sucker-punching Colorado Avalanche forward
Steve Moore during an NHL game in March. Moore was left with a
broken neck and concussion, and his playing future remains in