Manslaughter arrest over ice hockey player kicked in neck with bladed boot

Originally published at: Manslaughter arrest over ice hockey player kicked in neck with bladed boot | Boing Boing


Happy Gilmore wanted for questioning.


It is absolutely baffling that conduct that would constitute criminal battery in any other context is still allowed–encouraged, even–during hockey games. It’s sad that someone has to die DIRECTLY from a fight (as opposed to the many hockey “enforcers” who die young of CTE or similar conditions) for criminal charges to be filed.

I mean, I understand WHY. I used to go to minor league hockey games in high school and I’ll admit to coming away a little disappointed from games where the gloves and helmets never came off. But even then I understood it was gross. And then I started reading about CTE and the whole system seemed outright abusive.

There shouldn’t be “enforcers” in hockey. Refs should be calling penalties the moment a player takes off his gloves or helmet and should break up fights the second they start (like in any other sport), not standing there watching the players punch each other in the face a few times before stepping in. It’s ridiculous.


What is a “bladed boot”? Is that just a skate?


A serrated sports slipper.


I agree that fighting should be stamped out of the sport. I was invited to watch a hockey game in Moscow, and it was a joy to watch: the technical precision of the players passing the puck, the strategy, and the graceful skating. It was the first time I found a hockey game interesting, and I’m from Minnesota, where hockey is the state religion after Lutheranism.

But, to be fair to the refs, I wouldn’t be keen to step unarmored into a melee between men with knives on their feet whacking each other with wooden halberds.


IANAL, but I don’t understand the manslaughter thing.

If you kick someone in the neck with a knife on purpose, surely that’s murder.
This thing seems to me a horrific accident.
But, like I said, not a lawyer.

If the intention was to maim, but ended in death, is that the manslaughter thing?
Either way, fecking horrible.


This was clearly a crash between two hockey players, not a fight or an intentional injury to another player. Perhaps the manslaughter charge is some type of legality to help determine whose insurance pays for all of this? As a lapsed hockey player, this is baffling.


IIRC manslaughter can include accidents, negligence, or unintended consequences.

Like you get in an argument and you start swinging a bat wildly to menace them, but you make contact, they go down and crack their head on a rock and die.

I know it isn’t always consistent how it is applied.


Ah, hadn’t considered that.
Thanks, makes sense.


Also, Adam Johnson was a terrifically talented hockey player (the only way you play professionally) but he wasn’t a “former NHL star”. He played 13 games before realizing he wasn’t going to make it full time in the NHL, so he moved overseas to play professionally as many do. “Former NHL player” or “Professional Hockey Player” would have been a better way to describe him.

Respecting the deceased means paying enough attention to accurately describe them.

Between that and the “kick” in the neck with the “bladed boot” the article left a distasteful tabloid snuff-piece taste in my mouth.


It’s also the reason a lot of fans show up. It’s a modern day gladiator arena, and there are terrible people in the world who just want to see a fight.

Last time I went to a professional hockey game (I saw the North Stars, that’s how long ago), it seemed like we had arrived at the time for a fight to break out. A couple of guys were chosen to throw a few half hearted punches, the refs pulled them apart, and the game continued.

I certainly agree that it was ridiculous, but that might have been the result of poor choreography.


We have a saying in Canada; “Where were you in '72?”. The first Canada/Soviet hockey series. Classes were cancelled (I was in high school), so we could watch the final, and tv’s were set up all over the school. THAT was hockey!


No, manslaughter is a criminal charge, so it has nothing to do with insurance liability, and, in my opinion, it is an appropriate charge here. IANAL (yet, but hopefully soon) and I am not that familiar with English law, but it shouldn’t be drastically different. Murder requires “malice aforethought” generally, which just means that you have to have set out to kill the person, or at least cause serious enough injury that you know death is possible. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to have planned it out in advance. A few moments can be enough time to develop that intent.

Voluntary manslaughter, on the other hand, can occur without that malice or intention. “Heat of passion” is a common term that you hear about with manslaughter, but it can also be when you’re in a fight that just gets out of control. And that seems to be the case here. He didn’t say to himself, “Ok, I’m going to kill this guy,” and then slash at him with his skate. A hockey altercation started and he just took it too far.

This is a subtle difference. In the US anyway, you probably could charge him with murder (and it’s possible that this really was a murder), but it’s going to be a lot more difficult to prove. With manslaughter, you don’t have to prove the premeditation. You just have to show that in the heat of the moment and the fight, he swung his leg intentionally and the guy ended up dying.

Involuntary manslaughter is different. With involuntary manslaughter, that just means your actions were negligent and ended up causing someone’s death. That’s almost never going to be the case in a fight or brawl.


But he wasn’t in a fight with the victim. He was trying to make a poor quality (and illegal) hit on someone else, missed and as a result his foot flew in the air and hit Johnson in the neck. That sounds like involuntary manslaughter- doing something stupid that results in a bystander’s death, but no intention to harm that person. If the player he’d been trying to hit had died that might be different.
It is absolutely possible to play and referee hockey with no fights. There is zero tolerance for fighting in youth hockey- you are ejected from the game and suspended from the next for dropping gloves, removing helmet, or throwing a punch. Do it twice in a season and that season is over for you. It would be easy to enforce that in professional games but as noted people are paying to see that part of it.


I haven’t seen the video. I’ve seen several reports from people who have who’ve said it looked like he did it intentionally. If it were truly just a freak accident from his leg flying through the air from a missed attempt at a tackle, that wouldn’t even be involuntary manslaughter because it wouldn’t involve negligence. It would just be an unfortunate accident. If what you described is what happened, then half the NFL should be charged with assault every week.


Video here although watching it again Johnson did have the puck, behind another player who is the one I thought was the target of the hit, so I’m not sure what Petgrave was thinking. I’ve never seen a hockey player try to dropkick someone to hit them.
Multiple warnings on the video since you’re about to see a bloody fatal injury.

Thanks, but I’m gonna pass on watching that. My only point was to answer the questions about why manslaughter and not murder, and to explain the difference between involuntary and voluntary manslaughter. For good or bad, I’ll trust the British criminal justice system to evaluate whether these specific facts amount to manslaughter.


IANAL but this guidance should be helpful:


Yeah that’s all consistent with what I said and is essentially the same as in the US. Which makes sense. Our system evolved from English Common Law.