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Scandalous brawl of NHL stars in 1994, Chris Pronger’s career, hockey players in handcuffs


In the past year, American hockey has been swept by an unprecedented wave of scandals. First it became known that Jake Virtanen was on trial for possible rape – because of this, he lost his place in the NHL, but was fully acquitted. After that, information appeared about the Reed Bush case – he lost his job at Loko. Right now there is a call in Canada for a complete change of leadership in Hockey Canada due to a case of possible gang rape in the youth team.

Hockey players now need to be three times more careful: any of their jambs, even non-criminal ones, in the future can lead to the most serious consequences. But these people love to have fun – they recently leaked information about the hangout of Florida players during the second round they leaked.

Canadian hockey is drowning in sex scandals. Maybe it’s time to “cancel” it?

In 1994, an incident occurred that could now theoretically lead to the termination of contracts with the club and other dire consequences. Six Hartford players and one coach were immediately detained for a mass brawl in a bar, but they were released rather quickly. Some of them became hockey legends, some of them lead the NHL club as a general manager.

Despite the fact that enough star players managed to play for Hartford, it was a surprisingly mediocre team. For six consecutive seasons, the Connecticut boys made the playoffs only to lose in the first round. Shortly after this series was interrupted by a playoff absence, the team’s management came up with an unusual idea – to appoint a young progressive coach. They became 32-year-old Pierre McGuire.

Pierre McGuire

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

McGuire, who has now become known as a TV pundit, had almost no coaching experience – a season and a half as an assistant (albeit to Scotty Bowman himself) in the NHL and several years as an assistant in the NCAA Division II. This adventure ended with the third-best place in the league and dismissal six months later. The journalists accompanied this with a caustic comment: “In the last 15 years in the NHL, we have not yet seen a coach who was so disrespectful in his own team.”

McGuire acted like he’d won about five Cups. He publicly said that “no coach can outsmart me.” He even angered Jaromir Jagr – when Hartford played Pittsburgh, the coach forced the judges to measure the stick of the Czech and send him to the penalty box. Jagr scored the winning goal seconds after serving the penalty. After the match, he called this goal “the main goal of his career” because he “showed one know-it-all”.

McGuire’s desire to reign in a team that had enough players far superior to him in authority only led to the collapse of the dressing room. The young coach humiliated the young and lied to the veterans – as a result, the players lived their own lives and did not really obey his orders, one of which was the introduction of a curfew.

At three in the morning on March 24, 1994, the police were called to one of the nightclubs in Buffalo – half an hour later the police also asked for help. After they broke up the mass brawl, seven guys from Hartford were arrested – team captain and its top scorer Pat Verbeek, who spent the first season in the NHL Chris Pronger, second scorer Jeff Sanderson, tough guys Mark Potven and Mark Janssens, farm player Todd Harkins . In addition, assistant head coach Kevin McCarthy was detained.

According to one of the witnesses, the fight allegedly started because of a woman, but Verbik denied these accusations. Another said that two dozen people fought, and it was more like a hockey fight of all against all. The situation became more complicated when the bouncers came into action, who suggested that the fighters leave the club as soon as possible – but they did it with their fists, not with words. Verbeek generally denied that there was any kind of fight – they say that we were asked to leave the club, but we did not do it fast enough.

Pat Verbeek of New Jersey

Photo: www.nhl.com

The players were arrested and charged not only with a fight, but also with breaking into someone else’s property – the conflict spread to the shopping center next door. In addition, Sanderson tried to climb over the fence of the mall to escape, so he received a double charge. Coach McCarthy was accused of trying to get into a fight with one of the police officers. Together with the players, a resident of Buffalo they did not know was arrested, who accused the police of spraying tear gas into the faces of hockey players and walking on them with batons.

The hockey players spent the whole morning in a prison cell, they were brought to the court in handcuffs – these shots flew around America. The judge sentenced them to 20 hours of community service at a local youth organization, plus recovering legal fees. The Hartford players were soon released on $250 bail, and they even managed to play an evening game against the Sabres.

True, they shouldn’t have. The owner of “Hartford” disqualified all involved players for this game, and Chris Pronger – in general until the end of the season. The future member of the Hall of Fame was then 19, according to local laws, he was a minor. However, Gary Bettman personally canceled all these disqualifications with his power. Hartford still lost (3:6), but Pronger scored one of the goals.

Chris Pronger at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

What happened next? Verbeek and Sanderson, a month and a half later, got into the Canadian team, which won the World Cup gold for the first time in 33 years. Sanderson did not become a star, but a good player with 700 career points. Verbeek, after his illustrious career, became the assistant to Steve Yzerman, and was recently appointed the head of Anaheim. Pronger had a thousand more glorious games in the NHL, winning the Hart, Norris and the Olympics. Coach McCarthy made up a creative duet with Peter Laviolette and roams after him from club to club, having already played in three finals.

But for Hartford, perhaps this fight was fatal. Shortly after the incident with the players, general manager Paul Holmgren also got into trouble – he was detained for drunk driving after he knocked down the mailboxes of neighbors. Holmgren went to a private clinic to treat his alcoholism, and the team owner sold Hartford amid all this.

The new owner, Peter Karmanos, took the club to the Carolinas three years later, depriving the small state of Connecticut of the only US major league team in its history. Until now, they really miss their Hartford.


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