Commentary

Amber's 10 Degrees: NHL's dirtiest plays

Updated: October 25, 2007, 10:50 PM ET
By David Amber | Special to ESPN.com

It's not even Thanksgiving and yet the NHL already has carved up two turkeys with precedent-setting suspensions.

Jesse Boulerice and Steve Downie were given 25- and 20-game suspensions, respectively, for vicious on-ice attacks. Both were previously suspended in junior hockey for similar acts.

But were their actions the two worst on-ice incidents we have seen? Not even close. This week's "10 Degrees" counts down the 10 dirtiest incidents.

[+] EnlargeClaude Lemieux
Getty ImagesClaude Lemieux's hit helped ignite the rivalry between the Avs and Red Wings.

10. May 29, 1996: Claude Lemieux's hit from behind on Kris Draper
He has as many Stanley Cup rings as Wayne Gretzky, but Claude Lemieux's legacy is often tied to a hit that sparked one of the NHL's best rivalries, something Colorado and Detroit fans will never forget. During the 1996 Western Conference finals, Lemieux slammed a defenseless Kris Draper from behind, face first into the top of the boards. Draper was left with a broken jaw, nose and cheekbone, along with a concussion. Draper's jaw was wired shut for more than a month and he needed reconstructive surgery on his face.

Punishment
A two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.

Real justice
Considering what was at stake and how avoidable the incident was, Lemieux should have received a suspension for the rest of the playoffs and a 20-game suspension to start the next season.

Notable
When Lemieux retired in 2003, he was eighth all-time with 80 career playoff goals. Lemieux won Stanley Cups in Montreal, New Jersey (two), and Colorado.

9. Feb. 1, 1998: Gary Suter's cross-check on Paul Kariya
Gary Suter's NHL résumé is impeccable. He is a four-time All-Star, posted 844 career points in more than 1,000 games, won a Stanley Cup, an Olympic silver medal and a World Cup of Hockey championship.

Suter's one indelible blemish came on Feb. 1, 1998. While Anaheim's Paul Kariya celebrated his goal, Suter (then with the Blackhawks) cross-checked Kariya across the face. The end result: Kariya suffered a concussion that forced him to miss the final 28 games of the regular season as well as the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where he was supposed to play for Canada. It was Kariya's fourth career concussion. Months later, he still suffered from memory loss and headaches. According to Kariya, he would check his answering machine and forget who had called by the time the message finished playing.

Punishment
Suter received a four-game suspension.

Real justice
Suter should have received a 20-game suspension and exclusion from 1998 Winter Olympics.

Notable
During the 1991 Canada Cup, Suter knocked Wayne Gretzky out of the tournament with a hit from behind.

8. April 28, 1993: Dale Hunter's hit from behind on Pierre Turgeon
With the Islanders leading 4-1 in the third period of Game 6 of the 1993 Patrick Division semifinals, Pierre Turgeon intercepted a pass from the Capitals' Hunter. After Turgeon scored, he was blindsided into the boards by Hunter. Turgeon sustained a separated shoulder from the hit, causing him to miss the following playoff series against the Penguins and see limited action in the conference finals against the Canadiens.

Punishment
Hunter was suspended 21 games.

Real justice
Considering this incident was completely unprovoked and may have impacted the outcome of the Stanley Cup playoffs by effectively removing the Islanders' best player, a 40-game suspension seemed right.

Notable
Over the past three seasons as coach of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights, Hunter has been suspended on three separate occasions for his players' on-ice transgressions. Hunter is the only player in NHL history to record more than 300 goals, 1,000 points and more than 3,000 penalty minutes.

7. March 13, 1955: "Rocket" Richard's assault and battery
Maurice "Rocket" Richard gave hockey fans some of the sport's greatest moments: 50 goals in 50 games, the first to collect 500 career goals and eight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens. But he was also part of one of the game's ugliest moments.

Playing against the Bruins, Hal Laycoe high-sticked Richard in the head during a Montreal power play. The referee signaled for a delayed penalty (Montreal had possession of the puck). An incensed Richard indicated to the referee that he'd been injured, and then skated up to Laycoe and gave him a two-handed slash across the face and shoulders. The linesmen unsuccessfully tried to restrain Richard, who broke free and again attacked Laycoe, breaking his stick over Laycoe's back. Linesman Cliff Thompson was finally able to restrain Richard and pin him on the ice. The incident appeared to be over until Richard again broke free and punched Thompson twice in the face. Richard later said at a league hearing that he thought Thompson was one of Boston's players.

Punishment
Richard was suspended for the rest of the regular season (three games) and the playoffs (12 games). At the time, this represented the longest suspension for an on-ice incident in NHL history.

Real justice
The attack on Laycoe, although horrible, can somewhat be explained by the initial slash that cut the side of Richard's head. Punching a linesman in the face -- twice -- is a little more difficult to justify. Regardless of his reasons, Richard was a danger to everyone around him. The suspension handed out was justified and appropriate.

With Richard in action, the Canadiens might have won the Cup that season. Instead, they lost in seven games to Detroit.

Notable
A few days after the suspension was announced, NHL president Clarence Campbell attended a Canadiens-Red Wings game in Montreal. He was pelted with eggs, fruit and debris. The game was forfeited to the Wings, sparking a riot at the Forum and in the streets. This event would be dubbed the "Rocket Riot."

[+] EnlargeChris Simon's stick hit on the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesChris Simon was suspended for 25 games for hitting Ryan Hollweg with his stick.

6. March 8, 2007: Chris Simon's stick attack on Ryan Hollweg
After getting knocked down by a clean, hard hit into the boards from Ryan Hollweg, the Islanders' Chris Simon got up and took a two-handed swing at the head of the Rangers forward. Fortunately, Hollweg only suffered a cut across his chin that required a few stitches.

Punishment
Simon was suspended for 25 games (five in the playoffs and 20 in the regular season).

Real justice
Some will disagree, but I factor in both the act itself and what impact the incident had on the team. In this case, Hollweg, who collected one goal and two assists in 78 games last season, was hardly an impact player. I think the suspension was appropriate.

Notable
Simon's hit came three years to the day after the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident.

5. Feb. 21, 2000: Marty McSorley's stick attack on Donald Brashear
With just seconds left in a game between the Bruins and Canucks, Boston's Marty McSorley took a two-handed stick swing at Donald Brashear's head. Brashear fell backward and hit his head on the ice after the initial stick hit. The Canucks tough guy lost consciousness and suffered a Grade 3 concussion. Earlier in the game, Brashear had beaten McSorley in a fight. McSorley contended that he meant to strike Brashear on the shoulder, not the head, to provoke another fight.

Punishment
McSorley was suspended for the rest of the season (23 games) and charged with one count of assault with a weapon. McSorley was later found guilty and sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Real justice
A one-year NHL suspension, including playoffs.

Notable
The trial was the first for an on-ice attack by an NHL player since Dino Ciccarelli, who received one day in jail and a $1,000 fine for hitting Toronto's Luke Richardson with his stick in 1988. McSorley would never play another NHL game.

4. Sept. 24, 1972: Bobby Clarke's slash on Valeri Kharlamov
Three-time league MVP Bobby Clarke is arguably one of the greatest leaders the game has seen, but one nasty incident stands out for its ugly premeditated nature. It was Game 6 of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. Canada trailed in the series 3-1-1 when Clarke laid a vicious two-handed slash across the ankle of Valeri Kharlamov. Clarke reportedly made the move at the urging of assistant coach John Ferguson. Kharlamov suffered a broken ankle, and the Soviet Union lost its best player, helping Canada roar back to win the event.

Punishment
Clarke was assessed a two-minute slashing minor and a 10-minute misconduct.

Real justice
As much as Paul Henderson's series-winning goal is remembered as the defining moment of this event, Clarke's slash was more than a footnote. Kharlamov, who was as edgy on the ice as he was talented, led all Soviet players in penalty minutes during the Summit Series. Losing Kharlamov meant the Russians lost their most skilled player, one who could handle the physical nature of the series. Clarke, who was celebrated by many as a hero back in Canada after the attack, should have been suspended for the rest of the tournament for what was a deliberate attempt to injure.

Notable
When asked about the slash, Clarke said years later, "If I hadn't learned to lay on a two-hander once in a while, I'd never have left Flin Flon."

3. March 8, 2004: Todd Bertuzzi's hit on Steve Moore
This is perhaps the most repeated hockey highlight (or lowlight) to be played on "SportsCenter." The Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi, one of the game's premiere power forwards, attacked Colorado's Steve Moore from behind, punching him in the head and then driving Moore's body into the ice while falling on top of him. Moore suffered three fractured vertebrae in his neck, a Grade 3 concussion, vertebral ligament damage, stretching of the brachial plexus nerves and facial cuts, likely ending Moore's hockey career. Bertuzzi defenders are quick to point out that he tried to engage Moore in a fight earlier in the game and he was simply sticking up for a teammate (Markus Naslund was injured by a Moore hit three weeks earlier). Regardless, the brutality of this attack and its end result clearly outweigh whatever rationale may have been behind it.

Punishment
Bertuzzi was handed an indefinite NHL suspension, which ended up being 20 games (13 regular season, seven playoffs). He was formally charged with assault causing bodily harm. Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to the charge after arranging a plea bargain with prosecutors (a conditional discharge and one year's probation). A multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit filed by Moore and his family is still pending.

Real Justice
A suspension for the remainder of that season, plus one full NHL season, including playoffs, and punitive damages to be paid to Moore for lost income and mental and physical suffering.

Notable
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been actively attempting to get Bertuzzi and Moore to agree on an out-of-court settlement. During the suspension, Bertuzzi lost more than $500,000 in salary.

2. Dec. 12, 1933: Eddie Shore's attack on Ace Bailey
In the second period of a game against Toronto, Boston's Eddie Shore was tripped by King Clancy while carrying the puck. Enraged that the referee didn't call a penalty, Shore immediately went looking to settle the score with the first Leaf he saw. The defenseman came up behind an unsuspecting Ace Bailey and violently flipped him backwards, causing Bailey's helmetless head to crash to the ice. Bailey cracked his skull and he was knocked unconscious. Bailey spent the next five weeks in the hospital, fighting for his life. Bailey survived the attack, but his hockey career was over.

Punishment
Shore received a 16-game NHL suspension.

Real justice
Without seeing the video of this hit, it's hard to quantify how dirty the play was and what punishment is suitable. But considering the severity of Bailey's injuries and how it altered his life, it's fair to say Shore got off easy and should have received at least a one-year suspension.

Notable
After recovering from his injuries, Bailey worked as an assistant penalty timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens. As a tribute to Bailey and his family, a benefit game was held on Feb. 14, 1934. That "special game" evolved into what is now the All-Star Game.

1. Sept. 21, 1969: Wayne Maki and Ted Green's stick-swinging battle
In a preseason game between the Blues and Bruins, a scuffle between St. Louis forward Wayne Maki and Boston defenseman Ted Green escalated into a full-fledged stick-swinging battle. Both players delivered vicious slashes and spears to one another before the incident ended with Maki clubbing Green over the head and fracturing his skull. Green needed three major operations to save his life and had a steel plate inserted in his head. Green missed the entire 1969-70 season while recovering from the injury.

Punishment
Both players received 30-day suspensions (13 games). Assault charges were filed against both players, who were later acquitted.

Real justice
This incident is harder to assess because there isn't any clear victim -- just two assailants. The entire justification of allowing fighting in the game is to stop these sorts of situations from occurring. Considering these players chose to swing sticks instead of fight one another, they both deserved to be suspended for a full season.

Notable
Despite his missing the entire 1969-70 Cup-winning season with the Bruins, Green's teammates gave him a share of their playoff prize money. Green left the NHL in 1972 and joined the New England Whalers of the WHA. Green was named their first captain and led the team to the WHA's inaugural league championship.

ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.