The Wild Saga Of The First NHL Player To End Up In Court Over A Dirty Play

Former NHL player Dave Forbes

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Hockey has a reputation for being one of the most violent sports out there thanks in no small part to the many players who’ve traditionally fought violence with violence in the form of the fights that have been used to get revenge on foes who’ve crossed the line in the hope of discouraging them from doing the same in the future.

There is some evidence that suggests those fisticuffs don’t actually serve as a major deterrent against cross-checks, blindside hits, and other plays that managed to earn the “Dirty” label, but that data certainly hasn’t stopped plenty of guys in the NHL from continuing to dole out some frontier justice when they feel the moment calls for it.

However, there have been some occasions where plenty of people felt a trip to the penalty box or a suspension stemming from a questionable decision on the ice isn’t enough to address certain incidents that have transpired.

In 1955, the Boston Police Department attempted to arrest Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard after he attacked a Bruins player with his stick only to back off when the Habs ensured them the NHL would handle the discipline internally (although the league’s decision ultimately sparked a massive riot in Montreal).

In 2011, the tables turned when police in Montreal opened a criminal probe into Zdeno Chara over a hit that sent Max Pacioretty into a stanchion near the benches, which ultimately amounted to nothing (as was the case with the investigation law enforcement officials in Vancouver launched following Todd Bertuzzi’s infamous attack of Steve Moore in 2004).

While no arrests were made in any of those cases, there have been a few incidents that led to NHL players having to appear in court for their actions during a game—including one man who’s believed to be the first pro athlete to end up in that position thanks to what transpired in 1975.

How Dave Forbes ended up in court for crossing the line in an NHL game

The North Stars and Bruins fight after a dirty hit delivered by Dave Forbes

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Dave Forbes never really came close to becoming a household name over the course of the six seasons he spent in the NHL between 1973 and 1978; scoring 64 goals and posting 64 assists over in 362 games as a winger (even if you’re known for your defensive prowess) isn’t exactly a recipe for getting teams to knock down your door.

However, he’ll always have a place in hockey history courtesy of what transpired during a game between the North Stars and the Bruins on January 4, 1975.

Forbes had spent years grinding in the minors before he signed with Boston at the age of 25, and it’s easy to understand why he played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

However, he probably took things a bit too far in the contest in question, which was derailed when he engaged in a skirmish with Minnesota center Henry Boucha that sparked a massive line brawl after Forbes hit him in the eye with the end of his stick hard enough to crack his socket and induce double vision that took months to heal.

The NHL didn’t waste any time hitting Forbes with a 10-game suspension, but the Minneapolis grand jury that looked into the incident determined there was enough evidence to charge him with aggravated assault prosecutors tried to argue was committed with a “dangerous weapon” in the form of the stick that was used, a crime that carried a minimum sentence of three years (and as much as five).

Forbes entered a not guilty plea after he was indicted in January and headed back to Hennepin County District Court in May for a trial that was deliberately scheduled to take place during the offseason.

Five women and seven men were selected for the jury that oversaw the proceedings, and the majority of them appeared to believe Forbes had indeed committed a crime.

However, after deliberating the case for 18 hours, the foreman informed the judge they were unable to break the 9-3 deadlock that resulted in a mistrial being declared. While the district attorney could’ve refiled the charges after the jury was hung, he declined to do so (Forbes eventually agreed to pay Boucha north of $1 million to settle a civil suit that was also filed).

Since then, a couple of NHL players have been both tried and convicted of similar crimes; in 1988, noted hothead Dino Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and hit with a $1,000 fine for a similar attack on Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson, and Marty McSorley received 18 months probation from a judge in British Columbia for assaulting Donald Brashear.

Connor Toole avatar and headshot for BroBible
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.