Canadians are sick and tired of the growing violence in professional sports and a whopping 68% of them want the justice system to bring criminal charges against offenders.
A national poll conducted by Angus Reid and released yesterday showed that nearly seven of 10 people asked felt that when professional sports organizations -- like the NHL -- fail to make violent offenders pay a steep enough price for their actions, the government must make sure proper punishment is doled out.
The poll came on the heels of a vicious stick attack by New York Islanders tough guy Chris Simon that levelled Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers last week.
And that was just days after Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a concussion when he was blindsided by a hit from the New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen.
The NHL hit Simon with a league-record 25-game suspension but docked Janssen just three games.
A majority of Canadians (52%) said that Simon should have been charged with aggravated assault under New York state laws.
"And a huge majority (68%) feel that on some occasions, violence in sports requires the intervention of the legal system, not just regulation by leagues and teams," said Lucas Marshall, Angus Reid's senior research manager.
An interesting byproduct of the poll showed that even among younger respondents, ages 18-34, 56% felt that the law should become involved in violent cases. Among those in the 34-55 age bracket an overwhelming 70% said call the cops on thugs in sports.
The poll also revealed there is a growing segment of the population that thinks hockey has been getting more violent over the past decade.
While only 28% said they would keep their children out of hockey, a surprising 48% agreed that the sport has become dangerous.
There have been only two criminal cases -- both convictions -- involving NHL players in the past 10 years.
The first was for Marty McSorley's stick attack on Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear in 2000. The second was Canuck Todd Bertuzzi's breaking of Colorado Avalanche Steve Moore's neck with a hit from behind in 2004.
A legal scholar agreed with the poll results that the government has a responsibility to keep the peace, even in the arena.
"When it is clearly a criminal offence that goes beyond what could be expected in a game, there is an obligation on the crown to prosecute in the public interest," Ed Ratushny, a University of Ottawa law professor, said yesterday.
Spokesman Frank Brown said the NHL wouldn't comment on the poll until it had reviewed it in its entirety.
New York Islander Chris Simon got an NHL-record 25-game suspension for this hit on Ryan Hollweg of the Rangers.