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Man Bites Man: A History of Biting in the NHL – scoutingtherefs.com

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NHL players are well-known for their inability to retain teeth.  The toothless grin of a hockey player a long-held stereotype that often rings true.

Some guys, though, have made headlines not for losing their teeth – but for using them. Interesting to note that only three of these incidents have resulted in suspensions.

Here’s a look back at biting in the National Hockey League:

Unknown – 1980s

When an long-forgotten assailant bit down on his finger, Edmonton Oilers winger Jaroslav Pouzar quipped, “He think me hamburger.”

October 16, 1984 – Ken Linseman

Boston Bruins defenseman Ken Linseman chomped down on the face of Edmonton’s Lee Fogolin. The two – former teammates the prior season – combined for 29 penalty minutes in the game. The actual bite didn’t appear to be caught among them.  From the New York Times:

Fogolin, who had to get a precautionary tetanus shot after Linseman left his teeth marks in the defenseman’s cheek, imposed a penalty of his own. Later in the same game he broke Linseman’s nose with a crisp punch. No action was taken against Fogolin.

May 22, 1986 – Claude Lemieux

A melee broke out after the Montreal Canadiens claimed a 1-0 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.  During the post-whistle brawl, referee Andy van Hellemond handed out 122 minutes in penalties. Of course, those were mostly ceremonial, as the game had already concluded, and none would carry over into Game 5. The NHL stepped in and levied a total of $42,000 in fines, including penalties to the teams, coaches, and all players involved.  They opted not to suspend anyone for their actions. That included Canadiens forward Claude Lemieux, who bit down on the finger of Calgary’s Jim Peplinski.

“I don’t know if I bit Peplinski or not,” Lemieux said. “But I think I broke a tooth. When you’re fighting, anything can happen. It might have been a stick I bit.”

Peplinski showed his bloody finger to referee Denis Morel, offering some evidence for a penalty call.

“I didn’t know they allowed cannibalism in the NHL,” said Peplinski, who later received a tetanus shot.

December 17, 1989 – Chris Chelios

While the act wasn’t seen – nor penalized – Montreal Canadiens defenseman Chris Chelios admitted to biting New York Rangers forward Tomas Sandstrom, in an incident he recalled as being from 1984.

“We were in a fight and he tried to gouge my eyes. It was just a natural instinct to [bite his finger]. Plus the fact it was him. He was probably one of the most hated guys playing back then. Broke skin, blood, the whole works.”

[Note: We were unable to locate a 1984 game that met this criteria, with both players in their respective lineups and Sandstrom called for an infraction drawn by Chelios; the two did fight on December 17, 1989, so barring additional information, we’re adjusting the date accordingly.]

February 27, 1990 – Dave Manson [SUSPENDED]

Blackhawks defenseman Dave Manson was suspended three games for biting Capitals’ blueliner Scott Stevens. Manson justified the bite as a reaction to an eye-gouge from his opponent. Referee Rob Shick hit both players with match penalties for intent to injure.

February 9, 1995 – Tim Hunter

The Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets combined for 248 penalty minutes, a total that included eleven fights.  One of those scraps featured Winnipeg’s Tie Domi facing off against Vancouver’s Tim Hunter.  Domi gave Hunter a gloved face rub, with the Canucks tough guy reportedly chomping one of Hunter’s fingers.  Referee Don Van Massenhoven and linesmen Shane Heyer and Brad Lazarowich had their hands full with this one… but it was Hunter that had his mouth full of Domi’s finger.

November 20, 1997 – Eric Lindros

It took video review to clear Philadelphia Flyers forward Eric Lindros from biting allegations against San Jose Sharks defenseman Marty McSorley.

“I didn’t bite Marty,” said Lindros. “What’s been talked about is just inaccurate reporting. It’s unfortunate. The bottom line is it didn’t occur.”

McSorley agreed; there was no bite.  There was, however, a high stick from Lindros that caught him right in the face.

“I don’t want anyone to be suspended for something they didn’t do,” said McSorley. “He didn’t bite me — whether he tried, I can’t answer that. The only problem I have is he whacked me across the face with his stick. He’s a tough kid. . . . he doesn’t need to do that.”

This wasn’t the McSorley family’s first run-in with a hockey-related biting incident. In March of 1985, Marty’s brother Chris bit off the tip of Marc Magnan’s nose during an International Hockey League game. It was McSorley’s second suspension of the season for biting.

September 20, 2000 – Dave Manson (again)

Detroit Red Wings forward Martin Lapointe claimed Chicago’s Dave Manson bit him during a preseason game. Replays were unable to confirm whether or not a bite actually happened on the play. Lapointe reportedly got a tetanus shot just in case.

November 27, 2003 – Marc Savard [SUSPENDED]

Atlanta Thrashers center Marc Savard is suspended one game for biting the gloved finger of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Darcy Tucker.

“He was shoving his finger in my mouth. The guy was mauling me so I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how to get out of a mouth hold!”

Referees Dan O’Rourke and Kelly Sutherland tossed Savard, giving him a match penalty for intent to injure.

“Things like that happen in a game, I guess,” Tucker said. “I looked at the ref and he said he didn’t see it, but the linesman called it.”

Linesmen for the game were David Brisebois and Mark Shewchyk.

January 29, 2004 – Jordin Tootoo

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Tyler Wright accused Nashville Predators tough guy Jordin Tootoo of biting his finger during a scuffle. Wright showed off bite marks on the tip of his right pinky.

“There was a scrum and he was giving me a face-wash,” Tootoo said. “It all happened so fast. I’m pretty positive I didn’t [bite him], but what am I supposed to do when he has a hand in my face?”

The officials missed the alleged bite, so no penalty was handed out on the play.

“He’s from way up north – that’s how they eat up there, I guess,” said Wright. “That’s why I was snapping. What am I supposed to do when a guy is biting me? That’s ridiculous. I’ve never been associated with anything like that in my life.”

January 5, 2008 – Derian Hatcher

There was no disputing that Derian Hatcher’s tooth caused an injury to New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac, but the defenseman – then with the Philadelphia Flyers –  claimed that it wasn’t from a bite.

“My finger was in his mouth,” Zajac said. “There was a scrum in front and I guess my hand got close to his mouth and he bit me.”

Hatcher claimed that Zajac’s glove caught on one of his teeth while the Devils center was giving him a facewash.  “If he’s cut, good,” said Hatcher. “But I didn’t bite him.”

Zajac received stitches to his hand, but no penalty nor suspension were handed out.

January 6, 2009 – Jarkko Ruutu [SUSPENDED]

Buffalo Sabres winger Andrew Peters and Ottawa’s Jarkko Ruutu were shoving each other near the benches. Peters gave the Senators forward a gloved facewash; Ruutu responded by chomping down on Peters’ thumb, yanking his glove off in the process.

Ruutu denied that he bit Peters. “His fingers were in my mouth, but I didn’t bite him,” said Ruutu.

“It’s evident on video what he did and I have all the confidence in the league to make the right decision,” Peters said.

The only penalty on the play was an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Peters. Player Safety would setp in an levy a two-game ban on Ruutu after reviewing the play.

“Obviously, I’m happy about it and glad the NHL took notice,” Peters said. “It’s not really the thumb that’s the issue, it’s the incident that took place.  It’s weird to even think that that goes on in hockey. Even in my role, I would never think of doing something like that.”

“It goes too far for any player. It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s not part of hockey,” he said. “I just hope kids don’t think that’s acceptable. It’s not acceptable at any level.”

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April 26, 2009 – Shaone Morrisonn

Game 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers saw 42 total penalty minutes issued by referees Bill McCreary and Brad Meier.  Brandon Dubinsky picked up 14 of those, but was the victim of an alleged uncalled bite at the hands — or, teeth, rather — of Caps defenseman Shaone Morrissonn.  The New York Rangers forward claimed Morrissonn bit him on the arm; he later received a tetanus shot, making his status questionable for Game 7.

“Shaone doesn’t know what the heck they are talking about — and I don’t either,” said Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I looked at it from every angle and I don’t either. To me it’s a moot point and let’s move on. I did come up and [asked him] and he steadfastly denied anything. He was angry was more of the emotion he had, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ type attitude. I said, ‘I was just asking.’”

October 8, 2009 – Scott Hartnell

After a collision with Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, Philadelphia Flyers winger Scott Hartnell got into it with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.  After the two fell to the ice and separated, Letang raced off the ice, holding his hand and yelling to the ref, “He bit me!”

Letang did not come out and accuse Hartnell of biting in his post-game comments, charging reporters to ‘ask him what he did.’

“A lot of stuff happens on the bottom of the pile,” Hartnell said, in his defense. “He had his hands in my face, doing the face wash, and we were rolling around. I can’t say what happened.”

The NHL held a hearing and ultimately decided not to suspend Hartnell for the incident, reportedly due to a lack of proof.

January 24, 2010 – Matt Cooke

Philadelphia Flyers forward Arron Asham claimed that Penguins tough guy Matt Cooke bit him during a scrum.

“There was a scrum, I grabbed him,” Asham said. “My glove got tangled in [Cooke’s] mouth and he bit me, so I lost it.

“It’s not bad, but he’s a gutless guy. I have no respect for him at all. I lined up against him and asked him to fight and he didn’t want to. If you go and bite someone — I just have no use for him…  Usually, if you bite somebody you stick up for yourself and you fight the guy. Not this guy, he’s chicken and I have no respect for him.

Cooke denied the bite; no penalty nor supplemental discipline took place.

May 3, 2010 – Marc Savard (again)

Marc Savard, now with the Boston Bruins, again found himself in the middle of some dental drama, this time accused of biting Philadelphia’s Daniel Carcillo.  The Boston center claimed Carcillo was the aggressor, jamming his fingers into Savard’s mouth.

“He pulled on my teeth, so I guess that’s biting when a guy tries to pull your front teeth out like his,” said Savard. “I don’t see how that (is biting).”

Carcillo called the bite ‘cowardly’.

“The last time I was bit was in grade school,” said Carcillo. “It’s not a good feeling… He bit me, and the ref didn’t see. Guys don’t bite, men don’t bite.”

April 24, 2011 – Brooks Laich

New York Rangers forward Sean Avery claimed he was bitten by Washington Capitals winger Brooks Laich during Game 5 of their playoff series.

“[Avery’s] fingers were in my mouth, and I remember thinking about that, that I’m not [going to be] stupid about biting a player. He was trying to eye gouge me, he was sticking his fingers in my mouth,” said Laich.  “That play happened to me where somebody bit me and I thought it was a low, disrespectful, gutless play, and I’m not gonna do that.”

Avery complained to referees Stephen Walkom and Ian Walsh, but they didn’t bite. No penalty.

June 1, 2011 – Alex Burrows

Vancouver Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows objected to a glove in his face from Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, appearing to clearly bite down on the Bruins center’s right hand.  No penalty was called on the play.

“I don’t mind rough play and scrums at the end, as long as it’s just pushing and shoving and all that,” Bergeron said after the game. “But biting? I mean come on.”

After league review, the NHL reportedly found the evidence inconclusive and did not fine or suspend Burrows.

“After reviewing the incident, including speaking with the on-ice officials, I can find no conclusive evidence that Alex Burrows intentionally bit the finger of Patrice Bergeron,” NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a release.

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January 31, 2013 – Derek Dorsett

St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart claimed that Columbus Blue Jackets tough guy Derek Dorsett bit him on the back of his hand during a fight.

“Yeah, he bit me,” Stewart told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Want to see the teeth marks?”

Presumably, everyone wanted to.  No word on whether that request was fulfilled.

February 9, 2013 – Mikhail Grabovski

Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty fell victim to an alleged dental assault from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski. Pacioretty grabbed Grabovski from behind, covering the Leafs forward’s face with his glove during a scrum. Moments later, Pacioretty pulled away and rushed toward the officials, claimed he’d been bitten.

Both players received ten-minute misconducts, with an extra two minutes to Grabovski for roughing.

“I saw the bite. It’s clear on the video,” said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien. “I’m sure that the league will pay attention to that.”

Despite that, the league found insufficient evidence to levy any additional penalties to the Toronto forward.

June 3, 2015 – Andrew Shaw

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman appeared to indicate that Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw bit him on the torso during a scrum in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“Things happen during games,” Hedman said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Shaw also refused to discuss the incident.

“I mean it’s a hockey game. He’s one of the best players and he’s a highly skilled, big, strong defenseman with a lot of speed and he went after one of our better players.”

NHL Player Safety reviewed the incident, determining that no suspension was warranted.

November 27, 2021 – Brendan Lemieux

Los Angeles Kings forward Brendan Lemieux is the latest to chomp down on an opposing player.  He took a bite out of Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk on Saturday night.  He was given a match penalty for intent to injure.

Player Safety has scheduled an in-person hearing, indicating that Lemieux will be the fourth NHL player suspended for biting.

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