The case was announced on July 9, 1975: The State of Minnesota vs. David S. Forbes.
It became the first prosecution of a professional athlete in the U.S. for an alleged criminal act committed during a sporting event.
Half a year earlier, four days after ringing in the new year, National Hockey League left wing Forbes left an opponent, the unfortunate Henry Boucha, with ringing in his ears. The Minnesota North Stars had hosted the Boston Bruins for an NHL game at the Metropolitan Sports Center, Bloomington, with the Bruins leaving Hennepin County not only with a 8-0 victory, but a criminal charge looming over one of their stars.
An angry Forbes had told Boucha he would 'shove his hockey stick down his throat” as the Bruins and North Stars clashed on the rink. Hennepin County Attorney Gary Flakne would later hyperbolically describe how Forbes, "carrying his hockey stick in an unusual manner, went out of his way to catch up with Mr. Boucha," and "unexpectedly and without warning, thrust his stick to Mr. Boucha's head in a bayonet-or spearing-type motion.”
“Immediately upon the stick hitting Mr. Boucha in the area of his right eye, blood began to spurt out."
Boucha reportedly required 25 stitches and remedial surgery for a fracture of the eye socket and suffered from double-vision. Though ten days of deliberation eventually resulted in a hung jury, and with a mistrial declared on July 19, 1975, Forbes had already been suspended from participating in the professional sport for 10 games, with the NHL President having described the altercation "one of the most vicious incidents I have ever been called upon to deal with.”
It’s certain proof that sport can be beautiful but with the wrong brawlers it sure can be bloody! Here are five other occasions when sport got ridiculously feisty.
Surprise! It’s the Bruins v North Stars, yet again! Of course, the NHL isn’t adverse to the odd punch-up. In fact it could be said to actively encourage it, with violence as intrinsic to the sport as much as hotdogs at a baseball game.
Time to revisit the rink once again. Six years after Forbes made friends with Boucha’s eye socket, the Boston Bruins and Minnesota North Stars set six (SIX!) brand new National Hockey League records for violence in 1981. No sooner had the referee put his mouth to the whistle, then fighting broke between players after just seven seconds of the match! Not wanting to leave the people of Massachusetts out, the North Stars even started scuffling with spectators as well as a bunch of Bruins before security had to step in. The second period began nearly two hours after the game had started, with a total of 12 players had been ejected having produced a tentacular furious flurry of fists.
Minnesota set a one-team record with 209 minutes of suspension - an ice hockey game has a total of 60 minutes of regulation playing time. The two teams combined accumulated 392 minutes of penalties, twelve players were ejected. One could imagine it was just as sweaty as bloody in the cramped sin-bin.
It was one of those occasions when the scoreline - a 5-1 victory to the Bruins - was but a footnote.
Or the infamous incident known as ‘Joey Barton versus the World’. On May 13, 2012, Manchester City won their first league title after 44 long, hard years. And they were somewhat assisted by a familiar face. The Blues were undefeated at the Etihad Stadium all season before relegation-battling Queen’s Park Rangers came to town, only needing to win after having dropped points in Eastlands just once in their 18 previous home games.
It wasn’t going according to plan for Roberto Mancini’s Citizens, however. The match was however all square at 1-1 before QPR captain Joey Barton decided to change vocations from professional footballer to professional maniac, launching at attack with his elbow on Carlos Tevez. Barton - a City academy product who played for the first-team between 2002 and 2007 - understandably receiving a straight red launched his Limit Break, turning his attention to Sergio Agüero, then aimed his head at Vincent Kompany, then tried to square up to Mario Balotelli.
Barton was banned for 12 matches and fined £75,000 by the Football Association, with the chairman of the FA regulatory commission stating that Barton's behaviour "tarnishes the image of football".
Against a ten-man QPR who hadn’t won an away game since November, Edin Džeko equalised in the second of five minutes of stoppage time before Agüero scored for Manchester City’s win, the expected result forthcoming. By that time, Barton was probably tucked up safe and sound in his strait-jacket.
The year 1995 will always be a memorable one for South Africa. Not only were they hosting their first international sporting event since the end of apartheid, the unified Springboks went on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time, with victory over New Zealand. It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows all the way to glory, as rugby union fans likely remember:
And now to the notorious Battle of Boet Erasmus.
Emotions were already frayed, nerves shredded as the match between the Springboks and Canada was delayed considerably by a power-cut in the Port Elizabeth stadium. South Africa had already progressed out of the pool with wins over Australia and Romania but showed explicitly they were still up for the fight, despite going up to a 17-0 lead.
Battle lines were drawn. First it was Joost van der Westhuizen up against Canadian eight Colin McKenzie.
Then it was Pieter Hendricks versus Winston Stanley. Then Canada’s Scott Stewart decided to get involved to sucker-punch Hendricks from behind, prompting Springbok hooker James Dalton to start on Stewart. That proved to be the appetizer, as pandemonium prevailed. On the Boet pitch, both teams involved and spilled over the advertising boards next to the field.
Hennie le Roux produced noticeable punches, struck a vicious blow to a Canadian player, while one player had his left eye cut open. Dalton, and Canadians Gareth Rees and Rod Snow were sent off by frazzled ref David McHugh. Dalton was out of the World Cup, as soon after was Hendricks, who was subsequently suspended for a total of 90 days for starting the ruckus.
NFL defensive end Myles Garrett certainly made a fool of himself when he weaponised a headguard in November 2019 in scenes that truly shocked the sport.
It was the Cleveland Browns versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With eight seconds left in the game in Ohio, Garrett - on the winning side with Cleveland 21-7 up - became entangled with Steelers QB Mason Rudolph. Furiously he ripped Rudolph’s helmet off his head and attacked him with it, connecting with Rudolph’s unexpecting bonce.
A brawl of course erupted, Garrett was ejected from the game and had his season cut short by being suspended until February 2020, the second-longest suspension for on-field misconduct in NFL history, and the longest for a single in-game incident.
Furthermore, Garrett was fined $45k.
In July 2020, Garrett was purportedly ready to receive a $125m extension to remain with the Browns. Who says bad guys never prevail?
Yes, fighting is the name of the game in this ancient Korean martial art that has been practiced for over 2000 years. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, the Taekwondo bronze was to be decided between Arman Chilmanov of Kazakhstan and Cuba's Ángel Valodia Matos. However, after the latter was disqualified, his rage wasn’t directed at Chilmanov. Unfortunately, Matos saved his best moves for post-match.
The name Taekwondo literally translates as the way of the foot and the fist, and that is what Matos handed out to the match judge Chakir Chelbat.
In the third-place playoff of the +80-kg tournament, Matos was leading 3-2 in the second period of the contest when he stopped to receive treatment for a foot injury, for which he was allocated one minute. When he overran, Chelbat awarded the contest to Chilmanov.
Matos, the gold medallist in the inaugural event in 2000, confronted Chelbet and, unsatisfied, then Ángel went full-Devil as he promptly smashed an, admittedly exceptional, high kick to the referee’s face, before shaming himself further by spitting on the ground in Chelbat’s direction. With the red mist blinding, Matos still refused to yield and had to be dragged away by a pile of back-room staff.
Matos’ astonishing actions gifted him a lifetime ban from all World Taekwondo Federation championships, wiped all his records, and the WTF called it "a strong violation of the spirit of taekwondo and the Olympics."
Hard as nails, Matos refused to apologise.