Ok, stop us if you have heard this one.
Former NHL enforcer goes out to a bar, witnesses his cousin getting beat up in a brawl outside and goes postal. Police get involved and try and subdue said enforcer. He bursts through a crowd of people and starts swinging at police officers. Police taser him twice, he threatens to kill everyone and is tasered and pepper sprayed again for his efforts before finally being taken into custody.
Just another night in Simcoe, Ontario right? Here’s where it gets scary for hockey players and fans everywhere. The enforcer in question, Ryan VandenBussche, was cleared of one count of uttering a death threat and three counts of assaulting police—one punch broke an officer’s nose and orbital bone—with a very scary defence.
What was it? Alien abduction? Mistaken identity? Try this on for size:
“VandenBussche’s lawyer successfully argued that his client’s history of concussions and a hard shove against a wall during the altercation legally rendered him a ‘non-insane automaton’ that cleared him of criminal responsibility for his actions. The Judge ruled ‘that the action that Mr. VandenBussche engaged in was not voluntary as it related to the officers, that it was not the product of an operating mind.'”
You see, it seems that since VandenBussche’s 10-year NHL career as a fighter came to an end—remember it was he that famously ended Nick Kypreos’ career with one punch—he has been suffering some mental vagueries from time to time.
“Court heard that VandenBussche often came out of hockey fights in a daze and sometimes experienced flashbacks and seemingly random thoughts before snapping out of it.
“He recalled skating to the wrong bench after one fight, occasions when he sat in a penalty box without knowing why, and an incident in which he sat in the box and began remembering his Grade 3 teacher before regaining his thoughts.”
We’re the first to jump all over Gary Bettman and Company when they say that fighting has no place in the game of Hockey. We love to go to the games and watch the odd tilt, and will admit that once a player retires we generally don’t give too much thought to how they spend their retirement years. This could be because we are an Oilers fan, and any ex-Oiler that retires seems to end up as an assistant coach, but we digress.
There are clearly repercussions to be felt down the road from a career of “getting one’s bell rung” and it’s unsettling to realize that, down the road, your local enforcer could be so messed up that he becomes a “non-insane automation” and can lose it completely in the heat of the moment and not be legally responsible for his actions.