Perezhogin charged after baseball-like swing

Updated: August 26, 2004, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

HAMILTON, Ontario -- A minor league hockey player appeared in court Thursday, a day after he was charged with assault causing bodily harm over a stick-swinging incident that left his opponent bleeding and convulsing on the ice.

Hamilton Bulldogs forward Alexander Perezhogin injured Cleveland Barons defenseman Garrett Stafford on April 30 in an American Hockey League playoff game.

Assault causing bodily harm carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, but such a sentence is considered reserved for the worst offender with a long criminal record.

Stafford swung his stick at Perezhogin, catching him with a glancing blow on the back of the helmet. Perezhogin retaliated with a two-handed, baseball-like swing to Stafford's face as the Cleveland player was on his knees.

Stafford went into convulsions with blood gushing from his face and was rushed to hospital. He suffered a concussion and needed 20 stitches to repair the gash on his face.

"In hockey, you are consenting to a certain level of assault every time you step on the ice, but at a certain point you cross the line," Hamilton police Det. Dave Brady said at a news conference. "It was more than a mere trifling injury."

Perezhogin, who was drafted in 2001 by the Montreal Canadiens, was suspended for the rest of the playoffs and all of next season.

Stafford was suspended for six games for his role. He is not believed to have suffered any permanent injury.

Perezhogin was in his native Kazakhstan for the summer before arriving in Hamilton this week.

"He knew before he left to see his family that this would be a matter he would have to attend to and accepted the process," said agent Don Meehan, who appeared in court with Perezhogin.

Wayne Thomas, general manager of the Barons, said Stafford has recovered fully and is preparing for next season.

Perezhogin's court appearance came on the same day Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi pleaded not guilty in Vancouver to the same charge in another case of on-ice violence. Bertuzzi was charged in June for sucker-punching Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore during an NHL game in March. Moore was left with a broken neck and concussion, and his playing future remains in question.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press