Originally a game played by the upper-class, violence has been a part of ice hockey since at least the early 1900s. According to Hockey: A People's History, in 1904 alone, four players were killed during hockey games due to the frequent brawls and violent stickwork.
More modern examples of dangerous violence include brawls, fan involvement, physical abuse of officials, and deliberately injuring opponents. Violent actions, such as kicking, hitting from behind, and prohibited stickwork, are penalized with suspensions or fines. Fighting, or fisticuffs, is also penalized but is considered by many hockey enthusiasts, particularly in North America, to be quite distinct from stick-swinging or other violent acts. They regard fighting as an entrenched, acceptable and important part of the game.
On the ice, referees may impose penalties for prohibited activities. Off the ice, the NHL sometimes fines, suspends, or expels players. The criminal justice system has also been known to investigate, charge, and convict players.
Early hockey in particular was noted for its extreme violence, to the point where two players were killed in three years during brawls. In both cases, the accused assailants were acquitted, but these and other bloody incidents led to calls for the sport to clean up its act or be banned with the likes of cockfighting.  The worst of the violence waned, particularly with regulations for quasi-legal fisticuffs, though incidents continue to occur from time to time.
Billy Coutu was the first player banned from the NHL for life when, in 1927, he attacked referee Jerry Laflamme in a Stanley Cup game between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators - in which several players complained about the officiating - supposedly at the request of Bruins coach Art Ross. NHL president Frank Calder, the League's first president, expelled Coutu from the NHL for life on March 29, 1929.
Other incidents include the December 12, 1933 event when Eddie Shore hit Toronto Maple Leafs player Ace Bailey from behind. Bailey never played hockey again. More recently, controversy and criminal charges have resulted from violent attacks by Marty McSorley, Todd Bertuzzi, and Chris Simon.
Reports investigating violence
There have been 2 major Canadian reports on violence in hockey. In 1974, William McMurtry provided a report for the Government of Ontario entitled Investigation and Inquiry into Violence in Amateur Hockey. In 2000, Bernie Pascall prepared a report for the Government of British Columbia entitled Eliminating Violence in Hockey.
Incidents resulting in charges
- 1905 - Allan Loney is charged with manslaughter in the on-ice clubbing death of Alcide Laurin. Loney claimed self-defence, and was found not guilty. 
- 1907 - Ottawa Senators players Harry Smith, Alf Smith and Charles Spittal were charged with assault after beating Montreal Wanderers players, Hod Stuart, Ernie "Moose" Johnson and Cecil Blatchford with their sticks.
- 1907 - Ottawa Victorias player Charles Masson is charged with manslaughter after Cornwall player Owen McCourt dies of a head wound sustained in a brawl. Masson is found not guilty on the grounds that there was no way to know which blow had killed McCourt. 
- 1922 - Sprague Cleghorn injured three Ottawa Senators’ players in a brawl, leading Ottawa police to offer to arrest him.
- 1969 - In a pre-season game held in Ottawa, Ted Green of the Boston Bruins and Wayne Maki of the St.Louis Blues engaged in a violent, stick-swinging brawl. A factured skull and brain damage caused Green to miss the entire 1969-1970 NHL season. Both were acquitted in court. The NHL suspended Maki for 30 days and Green for 13.
- 1975 - Dan Maloney of the Detroit Red Wings attacked Brian Glennie of the Toronto Maple Leafs from behind. Maloney was charged with assault causing bodily harm, but was acquitted.
- 1975 - Police charged Bruins player Dave Forbes with aggravated assault after a fight with Henry Boucha of the Minnesota North Stars. After a nine-day trial ended with a hung jury, charges against Forbes were dropped.
- 1976 - Four Philadelphia Flyers players, Joe Watson, Mel Bridgman, Don Saleski and Bob "Hound" Kelly were charged with assault, using their hockey sticks as weapons in a violent playoff game between the Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs in which fans had been taunting the Flyers players and spitting at them. Bridgman was acquitted, but the other three Flyers were found guilty of simple assault.
- 1977 - Dave "Tiger" Williams of the Toronto Maple Leafs hit Pittsburgh Penguin Dennis Owchar with his stick. He was charged with assault, but acquitted.
- 1982 - Jimmy Mann of the Winnipeg Jets left the bench and hit Pittsburgh Penguin Paul Gardner, breaking Gardner's jaw in two places. Police charged Mann, who was fined $500 and given a suspended sentence in Winnipeg.
- 1988 - Dino Ciccarelli hit Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson with his stick. Charged and convicted of assault, he was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1,000.
- 1998 - Jesse Boulerice of the Plymouth Whalers was suspended for the rest of the playoffs after violently swinging his stick at Guelph Storm forward Andrew Lang. Boulerice was charged with assault as a result of the incident.
- 2000 - Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins hit Vancouver Canucks Donald Brashear in the head with his stick. McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon and given an 18-month conditional discharge.
- 2004 - After repeated failed attempts at instigating a fight, Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche from behind, knocking Moore unconscious. The pair then fell to the ice with Bertuzzi's weight crushing Moore face-first into the ice and Bertuzzi continued to punch Moore, followed by several players from both teams further piling onto the mêlée. Moore sustained three fractured vertebrae, a grade three concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves, and facial lacerations. Bertuzzi was charged by police, and given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault causing bodily harm. His suspension resulted in a loss of $500,000 in pay and the Canucks were fined $250,000. Bertuzzi was re-instated in 2005; Moore has not played since and made several (so far) unsuccessful attempts at civil litigation.
- A brief history of stick violence. CBC. 6 October 2000. Accessed at  on 19 July 2004.
- History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004. Accessed at  on 19 July 2004.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History". McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- Billy Coutu, Boston Bruins, lifetime ban, 1927.
- Dan Maloney, Detroit Red Wings, 2 years, November 1975. (banned from playing in Toronto only)
- Alexander Perezhogin, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL), 2004-05 AHL season (for playoff fight)
- Chris Simon, New York Islanders, 25 games, March 2007. (Remainder of season and playoffs; since the Islanders played only five playoff games, Simon sat out the first five games of the 07-08 season)
- Jesse Boulerice, Philadelphia Flyers, 25 games, October 10, 2007.
- Marty McSorley, Boston Bruins, 23 games, February 2000.
- Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay Lightning, 23 games, September 2000.
- Dale Hunter, Washington Capitals, 21 games, May 1993.
- Steve Downie, Philadelphia Flyers, 20 games, September 28, 2007
- Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver Canucks, 20 games (because of the NHL lockout, the IIHF also banned him from playing at any IIHF member league for 17 months, but reinstated by NHL commissioner on 8/8/05).
- Tom Lysiak, Chicago Blackhawks, 20 games, October 1983.
- Brad May, Phoenix Coyotes, 20 games, November 2000.
- Eddie Shore, Boston Bruins, 16 games, December 1933.
- Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens, 15 games, March 1955.
- Wilf Paiement, Colorado Rockies, 15 games, October 1978.
- Dave Brown, Philadelphia Flyers, 15 games, November 1987.
- Tony Granato, Los Angeles Kings, 15 games, February 1994.
- Wayne Maki, St. Louis Blues, 30 days, September 1969.
- Ted Green, Boston Bruins, 13 games, September 1969.
- Andre Roy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 13 games, April 2002.
- Brantt Myhres, San Jose Sharks, 12 games, February 1999.
- Matt Johnson, Los Angeles Kings, 12 games, November 1998.
- Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers, 12 games, May 1989.
- David Shaw, New York Rangers, 12 games, October 1988.
- Owen Nolan, San Jose Sharks, 11 games, February 2001.
- Tie Domi, Toronto Maple Leafs, 11 games, Game 4 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals.
- Jimmy Mann, Winnipeg Jets, 10 games, January 1982.
- Ruslan Salei, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 10 games, October 1999.
- Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils, 10 games, March 2000.
Source: “NHL Suspension List.” Canadian Press. No date. Accessed at  on 19 July 2004.
- Billy Coutu, Boston Bruins, 1927, for assaulting referee Jerry Laflamme.
Attacks on officials
- Billy Coutu, Boston Bruins, lifetime suspension, 1927, for attacking referee Jerry Laflamme and starting a Stanley Cup brawl.
- Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay Lightning, 23 game suspension, 19 September 2000, after he abused officials and left the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against the Washington Capitals.
- Tom Lysiak, Chicago Blackhawks, 20 game suspension, October 1983, for intentionally tripping a linesman.
- Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens, 15 game suspension (3 regular season, 12 playoff games), March 1955, for knocking down linesman Cliff Thompson during a fight with Boston's Hal Laycoe.
- Andre Roy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 13 game suspension, April 2002, for leaving the penalty box and physically abusing an official while trying to start a fight with players in the New York Rangers penalty box.
- Drewery, Laine (Writer and Director), Chong,Wayne (Producer). (2006). Hockey: A People's History, Episode 1 - A simple game, DVD Chapter - From sport to spectacle [DVD]. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," pages 27-28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- Violence, Not Part of Youth Hockey, pilot project working paper, Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association, September 10, 2003
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 27. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- McKinley, Michael: "Hockey: A People's History," page 28. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
- CBC Sports 2004
- 10 Hockey Violence Lowlights, CBC Sports Online, 9 March 2004. http://web.archive.org/web/20040311130503/http://www.cbc.ca/sports/columns/top10/hockey_lowlights.html
- NHL Suspension List. Canadian Press. http://www.slam.canoe.ca/Slam040311/nhl_susp-cp.html
- GoonBlog - Dedicated to hockey's thugs, goons and enforcers. http://www.goonblog.com
- A brief history of stick violence. CBC. 6 October 2000. http://cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/sportsView.cgi?/news/2000/10/06/Sports/stickwork001006
- History of criminal charges on ice. Canadian Press. 24 June 2004. http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/news_story.asp?id=88823
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